It's a bad day to be out on horseback, grey and damp. Spring is starting to gain a foothold, but winter isn't giving ground easily, and on a morning like this Grant wouldn't be out at all, except that he has to survey some damage done by last night's storm. He's checking one of the fences with Barrett, the groundskeeper, when he spots the shape on the ground a short distance away. He guides his horse toward it at a walk at first, picking up speed as he realizes it's a human figure.
He dismounts and kneels next to the figure, reaching to turn it over. It's a young man, so pale and cold that at first Grant is certain he's dead. But when he presses his fingers to the boy's neck to make sure, he finds a pulse, faint but there. Grant signals to Barrett, who rides over and dismounts.
"Help me get him onto my horse," Grant instructs, sliding his hands under the young man's shoulders.
They lift him together, and Barrett stands patiently with the young man draped over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes while Grant climbs back into the saddle. He reaches down as Barrett hands the young man up, and after a few moments' adjustment Grant has the boy sitting sideways in front of him, sagging against his chest.
"He looks to be in a bad way, sir," Barrett says.
Grant nods. "I should get him up to the house right away. Thank you, Barrett."
He rides swiftly, gripping the reins in one hand and keeping his other arm tucked around his passenger. Grant's afraid it may already be too late. If the boy was out here yesterday, in the storm...Grant shakes his head, dismissing the thought.
The staff are clearly surprised to see him arrive back at the house in such a manner, but they handle it with aplomb. Someone rushes to the kitchen for hot water, someone else goes to fetch the nearest doctor, and one of the footmen, Clark, helps Grant carry the young man up the stairs and into one of the bedrooms that's been aired recently. Once there, they strip him to the skin--no time to be delicate about it, his clothes are almost dripping from the damp. Grant notices a number of scrapes and bruises on the young man's body as they undress him, and, most troubling, the skin around both his wrists has been rubbed raw, as if he'd been bound.
Grant keeps spare linens on hand in case guests should ever need them, although this isn't quite the sort of scenario he had in mind when he began that practice. Clark retrieves a nightshirt from the wardrobe, and it's while they're getting him into it that the young man first shows signs of life. He barely stirs, lets out a faint moan and then goes still again, but it's encouraging. They get him under the covers just as Mary arrives bearing a tray. She lays a warm compress over the young man's brow, and he stirs again briefly. Grant dismisses the servants with his thanks and instructions to show the doctor in as soon as he arrives, then sits by the bedside, studying his unexpected guest.
He's very handsome, something Grant saw at once out on the moor but only really takes note of now. Dark-haired, with an almost fey look to him, round-faced and smooth-skinned in a way that makes his age hard to guess. Without really thinking, Grant reaches out to brush away a lock of hair that's fallen across his face, and as he does so the boy's eyes open, hazel-green and almost startlingly large, fixed on Grant.
"Where--" he begins in a raspy voice, and then breaks off, coughing.
Mary brought a glass and a pitcher of water; Grant fills the glass and holds it out, sliding his other arm around the young man's shoulders to lift him a little. The boy lifts a shaky hand to the glass, fingers touching Grant's as he drinks.
"My name is Grant," Grant says as he returns the glass to the nightstand. "You're in my house; I found you out on the moor."
The young man reaches out and catches Grant's arm, his grip tight even as his hand trembles.
"I got away," he says, low and urgent. "Don't let them find me; don't let them know where I am. Please--"
He falls into another coughing fit, and Grant takes the young man's hand in one of his, rubbing his back with the other.
"You've nothing to fear," he says soothingly. "What's your name?"
"Gerard," the boy whispers, voice weak.
"Gerard," Grant goes on. "As long as you're in my house, no harm will come to you, I promise. You're safe here."
The boy--Gerard--lets out a shaky breath, eyes closing as he sinks back on the bed. Grant slides his arm out from under him and starts to extract his hand from Gerard's, but Gerard's fingers tighten reflexively and Grant leaves his hand where it is, resting on top of the coverlet.
He stays that way until the doctor arrives, then stands back to let him examine Gerard.
"We'll have to wait and see how he fares through the day," the doctor says when he's done. "You saved him from the elements, but he may turn feverish. Watch him carefully."
Grant finds himself reluctant to leave Gerard's side after the doctor departs. The servants have their instructions, but having found Gerard and brought him home, Grant feels as though he himself is responsible for the boy. He shakes his head at himself--Gerard's not a stray cat, and Grant has duties he needs to return to. He makes sure the servants know to summon him if Gerard wakes, and gets back to work.
He goes back to look in on Gerard again before retiring that evening, and finds Mary and Sarah outside the door, talking in hushed voices. Mary looks up as Grant approaches, and he knows from her expression what he's going to find in the room. Gerard is sweating and shivering all at once, two spots of feverish color burning in his pale cheeks, and when Grant touches the back of his hand to Gerard's skin, he's startled by how warm it is.
"Have someone look in on him from time to time throughout the night," he instructs Mary. "If he seems to be worsening, fetch the doctor back. I don't care what time it is."
"Yes, sir," she says, looking at Gerard sympathetically. "We'll do all we can for him, poor lamb."
Grant knows Gerard's in good hands, and that's all that allows him to seek his own bed. Sleep is still slow to come. He thinks of the marks on Gerard's wrists, of what he'd said and the fear in his eyes--beautiful eyes, Grant can't help but think--as he'd said it. What had happened to him, where had he come from, and who were the people he wanted so badly not to be found by? All Grant can do is wait until Gerard is able to tell him, and all he knows is that he means to keep his promise. Gerard only entered his life this morning, and yet it's already vitally important to Grant to see him well and keep him safe.
The next few days are tense and difficult. Gerard is never more than semi-conscious; he sleeps fitfully, moans and whimpers, and sometimes takes a little water or broth if someone lifts him into a sitting position and holds a glass or bowl to his lips. The doctor looks in on him when he can, but there's not much to be done besides keeping him comfortable and waiting for the fever to break.
Grant finds himself spending whatever leisure time he has in the sickroom. He doesn't neglect his responsibilities--his estate is fairly small, a few acres and a single farm, but the daily maintenance of it still gives him plenty to do--but when he can, he takes a book or his current manuscript and goes to sit at Gerard's bedside. Sometimes he reads aloud, not knowing if Gerard can hear him at all. He often takes hold of Gerard's hand or presses a damp cloth to his brow, trying to soothe him.
One night, Gerard seems particularly bad. He tosses and turns, face contorted in a look of pain, nightshirt and bedclothes soaked with sweat. Grant sits with him, holding his hand and mopping his brow, talking to him in a low voice. None of it seems to do any good. Finally, desperate to give him some kind of comfort, Grant moves to sit on the edge of the bed, leaning against the headboard, and pulls Gerard into his arms.
Gerard curls against his chest automatically, fingers twisting in Grant's shirtfront, head nestled under his chin. Grant holds him tight with one arm, raising his other hand to stroke Gerard's tangled, sweaty hair. Gerard lets out a low moan and Grant shushes him gently.
"Whatever happened to you, I believe you must have had both courage and strength to come this far," he says softly. "And I know it must be difficult, but now I need you to keep being brave and strong. I need you to fight. Can you do that for me, Gerard?"
He goes on stroking Gerard's hair and murmuring to him, and after a while Gerard goes still and quiet in his arms, seeming to rest easier. Grant doesn't want to let him go. He wants to keep Gerard cradled against his chest, wants to hold him until he wakes, until this is over.
Instead he lowers Gerard back down on the bed, sits there with his hand on Gerard's head for a while longer, and then goes back to his chair. When Mary finds him there a short while later and gently urges him to get some rest, Grant goes back to his own room, but not to sleep. He pours himself a glass of Scotch and sits at his desk thinking--brooding, if he's being honest with himself.
He doesn't know Gerard. They've barely exchanged a handful of words, and Grant knows almost nothing about him. Gerard found his way here by chance and Grant is giving him the hospitality he'd give anyone in such a situation. It's beyond foolish for him to make this any more than that.
Grant doesn't know when he finally falls asleep, but it doesn't seem very long before someone's knocking on his door. His first response is a loud noise of complaint.
"I beg your pardon, sir," Clark calls, "But you wanted to be summoned at once if our guest was waking."
That certainly gets Grant out of bed in a hurry. He dresses quickly and hurries down the hall with Clark at his side.
"His fever broke sometime in the night, sir," Clark explains. "Matthew's gone for the doctor."
When Grant enters the sickroom, Gerard is indeed awake. He's still in bed, but his eyes are open and he's looking around. He looks confused and perhaps a little frightened, but that's understandable.
"Good morning," Grant says, crossing to his customary spot by the bedside. "It's good to see you awake."
Gerard looks at him almost suspiciously. "Who are you?" he asks raspily. "Where am I?"
Grant frowns. "I'm Grant," he says. "You're in my house. We spoke a few days ago, do you not remember?"
Gerard looks away, brow furrowed in thought, and shakes his head. "No, I don't--" He breaks off, then looks back at Grant, and the look in his eyes is definitely fear now. "I don't remember anything."
"Gerard..." Grant automatically reaches for his hand. He's frightened himself, now.
Gerard doesn't pull away, but his hand is limp and unmoving in Grant's, like a doll's, and he stares at Grant with wide, frightened eyes.
"Gerard," he breathes. "Is that my name?"
Grant forces himself to be patient while the doctor examines Gerard. He performs several tests that are apparently to check for a brain injury while asking a series of questions. Gerard knows what year it is. Upon being informed he's in Scotland, he knows where that is. He simply doesn't know anything about himself, or anything that happened to him before waking up.
"As far as I can tell, there's no injury," the doctor says at length.
"Is this happening because I've been ill?" Gerard asks. "I didn't know a fever could bring about such a thing."
"It's rare, but it can happen," the doctor informs him. "In your case, I'd say it's a combination of the fever and a delayed reaction to whatever trauma you suffered before Sir Morrison found you."
Gerard's eyes go wide again, and he looks over at Grant. "Trauma? What...?"
Grant winces; he'd hoped to wait a little longer before bringing this up. "I don't know much. Just...the way I found you, and something you said before the fever set in."
"It would seem you know a good deal more about me than I do about myself at the moment, sir," Gerard points out. "Please tell me."
Grant nods. "Very well."
He relates the entire tale; the way he'd found Gerard out on the moor, the condition he'd been in (Gerard looks down at the fading marks on his wrists, then folds his arms a bit self-consciously), and their one brief conversation. When he's done, Gerard looks no less confused and even more frightened, and Grant's arms are itching to hold him.
"And you've no idea where I came from, or who I was talking about?" Gerard asks.
Grant shakes his head. "I was rather hoping you would be able to tell me when you recovered." He glances at the doctor. "What can we do?"
"For the moment, I think the best thing we can do is wait," the doctor says, looking down at Gerard. "Your memories may return on their own, once you've had more time to recover."
Gerard's brow furrows. "And if they don't?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," the doctor tells him. "I know this is going to sound like an impossible request, but try to relax as much as you can. Your body still needs a great deal of rest, and your mind needs a healthy body."
Gerard lets out a sigh, obviously unsatisfied. "Very well." He looks over at Grant. "It seems, sir, that I may have to continue imposing on your hospitality a while longer."
Grant shakes his head, smiling. "You aren't imposing at all. My hospitality is yours for as long as you need it. And please, call me Grant."
The corners of Gerard's mouth quirk up. It's the first time Grant's seen him smile, and it goes straight to his heart. "Grant, then. Thank you."
The first thing Grant does when he rises the next morning is go to look in on Gerard. There's no answer to his knock at first, and he's about to assume Gerard is still asleep and move away when he hears a weak "Hello?"
"Gerard?" Grant pushes the door open slowly, and then rushes into the room. Gerard is sunk on his knees beside the bed, one hand clutching the footboard. His eyes are closed and his face looks ashy.
Grant goes to his side at once, kneeling and reaching for Gerard before it occurs to him that perhaps he shouldn't be so familiar now. Gerard doesn't seem to mind--he leans into Grant, and Grant tucks an arm around his shoulders.
"Are you all right?" he asks.
"Dizzy," Gerard says. He swallows hard and takes a few deep breaths, then opens his eyes. "I was trying to move to that chair by the fire."
Grant adjusts his hold on Gerard and helps him up; they stand together, Gerard still leaning heavily on Grant. "Why didn't you ring for someone?" Grant asks.
"I thought I could make it on my own." Gerard sounds both sheepish and impatient, which Grant can't fault him for, given how frustrating this all must be for him. "Everyone here has been waiting on me hand and foot for days. I wanted to try and be less of a burden."
"You shouldn't push yourself, you'll slow down your recovery," Grant says, then regrets his chiding tone as he sees a dark flush spread over Gerard's cheeks. "You are no burden," he says more gently. "I know it must be hard, but please try and be patient."
Gerard sighs. "It is hard. But I don't want to seem ungrateful for all you've done for me."
"Never mind it," Grant says as they reach the chair and Gerard lets himself drop into it. "I think there's a dressing gown in the wardrobe, if you'd like it."
"Yes, please," Gerard says. Grant goes to fetch the garment, and Gerard smiles up at him as he takes it. "Thank you."
Grant brings the chair he'd been occupying at Gerard's bedside and brings it over to sit next to him. "Are you hungry?" he asks.
Grant opens his mouth, but before he can reply his stomach growls loudly. He gives an embarrassed laugh. "I suppose that's your answer."
Grant rings, and after a few moments Sarah appears in the doorway. "Please bring a tray up for our guest," Grant instructs. "Tea and toast, and perhaps some porridge?" He glances at Gerard, who nods. "And something for me, assuming you don't mind me joining you, Gerard."
Gerard smiles again. He has a lovely smile, and Grant wants to see it as often as possible. "Not at all."
When the trays come, Gerard sets into his with a good appetite, and Grant waits for him to pursue conversation or not, as he chooses. After a few minutes Gerard slows down, takes a sip of tea, and speaks.
"You've been so kind to me I feel as though we're friends already, and then I remember how little I know about you," he says. "I may not be able to help not knowing anything about myself, but at least I can learn more about you--would you tell me about yourself?"
"I don't make for a very fascinating subject, I'm afraid," Grant tells him. "I inherited this estate from my father. I have a sister, who lives with her husband a short distance away, but I live alone."
"And what do you do when you're not bringing strangers in from the moors and nursing them back to health?" Gerard asks.
"I look after the estate. I write--mostly idle musings, some poetry. I visit my sister or friends when I fear I'm becoming too much of a hermit and travel when I need a change of scenery." Grant gives a self-deprecating smile. "As I said, not terribly fascinating."
Gerard finishes off the last of his toast, wipes his mouth, and gives Grant a speculative look. "If we were characters in a novel, you'd have some terrible secret that I'd be bound to discover now," he says, a teasing note in his voice.
"Given the way you appeared out of nowhere under quite dramatic circumstances, I'm not so certain we're not characters in a novel," Grant replies. "But I've no terrible secrets to be discovered."
Gerard looks down with a faint, crooked smile. "Well, I suppose I provide all the drama we need." He looks back up, eyes searching Grant's face. "You really have no idea where I came from? There's nothing I said or did that gave any clue?"
Grant shakes his head. "Only things that seem far too general to be useful. I know by your accent that you're English. The clothes you were wearing were of good quality, and from our conversation so far you seem well-educated. We checked your clothing for things that might help identify you--a watch, a handkerchief, anything, but there was nothing."
Gerard sighs. "'Nothing' seems to be the theme here." He sits back in his chair, leaning his head against the cushion. "I lay awake for hours last night trying to remember something, anything."
"Give yourself time," Grant advises him.
"It seems I can't do anything else, can I?" Gerard replies, a sharp note in his voice, and then he sighs again. "I'm sorry."
Grant looks at him calmly. "You don't have to apologize to me, Gerard. If you need to be angry, be angry."
"I don't want to be angry," Gerard says tiredly. "To tell the truth, I'm struggling not to be terrified. Knowing that something bad happened to me, and still not being able to recall what--I just keep turning it over and over in my mind. And you've been so kind, but you're still a stranger, more or less, and right now I'm completely dependent on your kindness. It's...unsettling."
Grant leans across the distance between them, laying his hand gently on Gerard's forearm. "I made you a promise before," he says softly. "I'll make it again now. As long as you're a guest in my house, I will do everything in my power to make sure you're safe from harm. That includes giving you my hospitality for as long as you need it. You're right that we're still strangers, but I hope I can show myself to be worthy of your trust."
Gerard looks at Grant solemnly while he speaks, then drops his gaze with a faint smile. "I hope so as well," he says softly. "I should very much like for there to be something I can trust."
Grant smiles at him, pressing Gerard's arm gently before drawing back. Gerard lets out a sigh, tilting his head back again.
"I'm sorry, it's been very good talking with you," he says, "but I am a bit tired."
"Of course." Grant sets his own tray aside, stands and takes Gerard's as well, then turns back to him and holds out a hand. Gerard takes it and stands, and for the short time it takes to cross the room they're pressed close, Gerard bracing himself against Grant's shoulder, Grant supporting Gerard with a hand on the middle of his back. Then they reach the bed, and Gerard sinks down on it gratefully while Grant steps back.
"If you need anything--" Grant begins.
Gerard looks up at him, his mouth slanting to the side in just a hint of a smirk. "I'll ring," he says pointedly.
"Good," Grant says. "And if you're feeling up to it, perhaps I'll join you for tea later?"
"I'd like that," Gerard says, and then covers his mouth as he yawns. "If I'm awake by tea time."
That morning sets the tone for the next few days. Still confined to his room until the doctor says otherwise, Gerard alternates between periods of calm and fits of restlessness and anxiety. Grant visits him often. For lack of other conversational subjects, he talks about his day, about the running of the estate or his writing progress or the latest letter from his sister. Gerard listens eagerly and offers a comment now and then, but the fact that his mind is still a blank slate is unsettlingly apparent; he has no anecdotes of his own to tell, no experiences to compare to Grant's.
One afternoon, Grant arrives to find Gerard sitting up against a mound of pillows. He has a book, but it's lying across his lap, and his eyes are closed. Grant is about to back out of the room and leave him to rest, but Gerard stirs, opening his eyes.
"Hello," he says with a smile, pushing himself up and reaching behind himself to adjust his pillows.
"Good afternoon," Grant replies, but stays near the door. "If you'd rather rest, I can go."
Gerard shakes his head. "No, please come in," he says, and Grant proceeds to his usual chair. "I didn't mean to fall asleep--I'm tired of resting, if that makes any sense. But my eyes don't seem to agree, and reading turned out to be more of a strain than I was expecting."
"Well, if you'd like, I could read to you," Grant offers, and Gerard looks up with one of those brilliant smiles of his.
"Would you?" he asks, picking up the book. "You wouldn't find that dull?"
"Not unless you chose a dull book," Grant says, holding out his hand for it. "And as I make it a point not to allow dull books in my house, we should be fine."
Gerard hands over the book--a volume of poetry--and Grant waits for him to settle down and get comfortable before he chooses a page and starts reading. He reads for perhaps half an hour before he looks up to see that Gerard seems to be asleep, slumped back against the pillows and breathing deep and steady. Grant says his name softly, and when Gerard doesn't reply Grant sets the book down on the bedside table.
He'd like very much to just stay here and watch Gerard sleep, but he's not sure how he'd explain himself if Gerard woke or one of the servants came in to find him like that. Instead he retrieves a blanket from the foot of the bed and drapes it over Gerard's shoulders, then goes to stoke the fire.
He hears a noise from Gerard as he's standing at the grate, but pays it no mind until Gerard makes another, louder and clearly distressed. Grant turns, moving back toward the bed, but before he gets there Gerard lets out a shout and sits bolt upright.
"Easy," Grant murmurs, going to his side and laying a hand on Gerard's shoulder. "Easy, it was just a bad dream--"
"No." Gerard shakes his head, looking up at Grant with wide eyes. "No, I--Grant, I think it may have been a memory."
"Really?" Grant sits back down in his chair, looking at him intently.
"It felt that way," Gerard says. "It was so real--I can remember the way things felt and smelled. And--"
He hesitates, and Grant reaches for his hand. "You don't have to tell me anything," he says. "But if you're willing to, talk it through with me?"
Gerard looks at him uncertainly, then takes a deep breath, closing his eyes.
"I was in a forest," he says. "It was dark and raining, and I--I was running."
"Could you tell who from?" Grant asks. "Did you see anyone?"
Gerard shakes his head. "No, but I could hear voices. I found a hollow underneath a tree--well, not so much 'found' as 'fell into'. I crawled in the rest of the way and lay there, praying they wouldn't see the hollow in the dark and the rain, and after a few moments the voices passed by and kept going. When I couldn't hear them anymore--" He curls one hand around the opposite wrist, rubbing at it. "My hands were tied behind my back. I found a tree root jutting out and rubbed the ropes against it until I could get free. And then I crept out of the hollow--I'd been listening, but the voices hadn't come back--and I just ran in the opposite direction of the way they'd gone. I ran as fast as I could." He looks up at Grant, letting out a shaky breath. "That's all."
"All right," Grant says, patting his hand gently. "It's a start. Perhaps more will come back to you."
"If there's more like that, I'm not certain I want it back," Gerard says, raising both hands to his face. "I can still taste the fear in my mouth."
Grant wants to reach out and stroke his hair, wants to take Gerard in his arms. He hovers anxiously for a moment, then, as Gerard stays slumped with his face buried in his hands, asks, "Shall I leave you?"
"No, please--" Gerard says at once, reaching for Grant's hand. "No, just...would you sit with me a little while longer? I don't want to be alone."
"Of course," Grant says, taking Gerard's hand in both of his, holding it gently as Gerard sits with his head bowed. "As long as you need."
The next day, Gerard is understandably in low spirits, but his mood improves when the doctor comes to call in the early afternoon. In addition to declaring it encouraging that Gerard spontaneously remembered something, he declares that Gerard need no longer stay confined to his room.
"Thank God," Gerard declares emphatically, then looks up at Grant. "Not that this hasn't been a lovely room to be confined in, but I should like to at least see the rest of the house."
Grant smiles at him. "And I shall be glad to show it to you. Starting with the dining room, if you'd care to join me for dinner tonight."
Gerard returns the smile. "Gladly, although I'm afraid I won't be dressed properly."
The clothes he was wearing when Grant found him have been cleaned, mended, and stored in the wardrobe in his room, but it's just a shirt and trousers, not quite formal dinner attire.
"Given how often I dine alone, I frequently don't bother to dress properly myself," Grant tells him. "Of course you could borrow whatever you like, but I'm afraid none of my things will fit you."
"I'll figure something out," Gerard says.
Sure enough, Grant returns to Gerard's room at dinnertime to find him in a suit that looks like it came from one of the footmen, standing with his back to the door as he fastens his cufflinks.
"Well, It seems I at least remember how to dress myself properly," Gerard says over his shoulder. "Matthew's a bit smaller than I am, but Clark is so much larger that his things looked downright comical on me." He turns to face Grant, smoothing a self-conscious hand down the front of his borrowed waistcoat. "So I hope I look all right in Matthew's. What do you think?"
What Grant thinks is entirely unfit to be said aloud. Matthew's suit is a bit more snug than is quite proper, and it hugs the lines of Gerard's body like it wants to be close to him. Being a footman's suit, it's quite simple, plain black wool with a crisp white shirt underneath, and on Gerard that simplicity becomes elegance.
"I think you look very well," Grant tells him. "Shall we go down?"
Dinner is a pleasant affair; being able to join Grant downstairs seems to have lifted Gerard's spirits considerably, and Grant finds himself enjoying Gerard's company even more than he has already.
"Tomorrow I'll give you a tour of the house, if you like," Grant tells him.
"I think I should like that very much," Gerard says. "And perhaps some of the grounds? From what I've been able to see from my window, they look quite lovely."
"I'm not certain that would be wise, so soon after you've been ill," Grant says. The weather of late has been fair, but there's still a sharp chill in the wind."
"But I'm quite recovered now," Gerard says eagerly. "And I feel as though I haven't been outside in ages. At the moment I literally have one memory of being outside, and it's a dreadful one."
Grant can't help but smile at his dramatic tone, and finds himself reluctant to deny Gerard anything. "Perhaps for a while, then, if the weather stays fair," he says, and Gerard rewards him with a smile. "For the time being, I often retire to the library after dinner, if you'd care to join me there."
Grant is quite proud of his library, having devoted a great deal of time both to developing his collection and to making the room itself a lovely and comfortable place to enjoy it. It's gratifying to see the way Gerard's face lights up as they walk in.
"Oh, yes," he says softly, eyes scanning the shelves. "I can see myself spending a great deal of time here."
Grant finds the novel he's been rereading and settles into his favorite chair by the fire; Gerard peruses the shelves for a few minutes before he selects a volume, smiling at Grant as he takes a seat on a nearby chaise.
They don't talk, but it's a comfortable silence, as if they've spent many evenings together like this. Gerard seems engrossed in his reading, but Grant finds himself sneaking glances at Gerard so often it's almost hard to keep his place on the page. It's such a small thing, having someone else in the library with him, sitting quietly and not taking up much space, but it transforms the entire room somehow.
They do go out the next day, though Grant insists on Gerard wearing a borrowed coat and scarf.
"Still acting as my protector, I see," Gerard says as he takes the scarf, gently teasing.
"I'm protecting myself," Grant tells him. "Do you have any idea of the scolding I'll get if I let you take ill again?"
"From the doctor, or from Mary?" Gerard asks with a smile, winding the scarf around his neck.
"Both," Grant says solemnly.
They walk through the gardens, not yet in bloom, and then through the gate that leads out to the moors.
"The countryside here is beautiful," Gerard remarks as they climb a low rise.
"I've always thought so," Grant agrees. "Though I wish you were seeing it in better circumstances."
"As do I," Gerard says glumly, then glances over at Grant and hastily adds, "Of course, I don't include your hospitality or your company in that."
Grant smiles at him, reaching over to lay a gentle hand on Gerard's shoulder. They're standing quite close--something that could easily be attributed to the cold.
"I dreamt about being in the forest again last night," Gerard says after a moment, so low Grant can barely hear him above the wind. "Still just as vivid. It seems strange that I can remember that so clearly now, and nothing else." Grant presses Gerard's shoulder gently, wishing he had anything helpful to say, and Gerard looks up at him. "And I've been thinking about the possibility that someone may be looking for me. Assuming I have any family, or other close connections."
Grant nods. "That thought's occurred to me as well."
"Perhaps if we reached out, we may be able to find them," Gerard goes on. He sounds determined, but Grant can hear a faint tremor in his voice.
"If that's what you want," Grant says, looking at him carefully. "Is it?"
"I--" Gerard begins haltingly. There's a gust of wind, and he shivers, pulling his coat tighter around himself. "Can we go back inside?" he asks softly.
"Of course," Grant says, keeping his hand on Gerard's shoulder as they turn back toward the house.
They're passing through the gardens when Gerard starts speaking again, as if he hadn't stopped. "It's just--we still don't know anything about who I was trying to get away from, or why. And it's been impossible not to speculate. I lie awake at night and turn every awful possibility over and over in my mind. And it could be that I was abducted, taken from my family, but..." He hesitates, then says in a hushed voice, "But my family could have been the ones I was running from, couldn't they?" He looks at Grant worriedly. "You don't think it's foolish of me to consider that, do you?"
Grant shakes his head. "It's a grim thing to have to consider," he says. "And perhaps outlandish, but then, what about your situation isn't? I don't think it's impossible, much as I wish I could say differently."
Gerard lets out a sigh. "I don't know if I'm relieved you don't think I'm being foolish or disappointed you didn't tell me to put it out of my mind at once."
"I'm sorry," Grant tells him sincerely. "But I think it would be more foolish not to acknowledge it's a possibility." He looks over at Gerard in concern. "But not the only one."
Gerard nods. "And I think about the other possibilities as well--that they're good people and they don't know where I am, don't even know if I'm still alive or not." He sighs again. "The only way to know the truth is to find them. But not knowing what I'd find makes me afraid to try."
They've paused in their walking, near a little alcove in the garden wall. Grant leads Gerard over to the bench cut in the wall, away from the wind.
"We could have them come here," he suggests as they sit. "See what you make of them. It might jog your memory, or perhaps just seeing them would give you a sense of the truth."
Gerard nods. "We could. But then what?"
"Then if you feel safe, you go with them, and if not, you stay right here," Grant says firmly. Gerard looks at him, seeming a bit surprised, and Grant hastens to add, "If that's what you want."
Gerard ducks his head. "I can't just stay here indefinitely," he murmurs.
"Why not?" Grant asks. "It's not as though you take up very much space." He reaches out and touches the back of Gerard's hand. "In all seriousness, Gerard, I couldn't stand to see you leave without knowing you have somewhere safe to go."
Gerard looks back up at him, eyes full of gratitude--and perhaps more. Or perhaps, Grant tells himself sternly, that's just what he wants to see. He turns his hand over under Grant's, his fingers brushing Grant's wrist.
"You've done so much for me already," Gerard says softly. "You still barely know me."
"That doesn't matter," Grant tells him. "I count you as a friend now, and I should hope you count me as one. And I don't turn my back on friends." If it's not the whole truth, it's a version of it that will do. "You called me your protector before, perhaps in jest, but I'd be honored for you to consider me so in earnest. Whatever protection I can give is yours, as long as you want it."
Gerard smiles crookedly. "I wasn't truly jesting," he replies softly. "I do think of you that way--ever since I woke up and you were there caring for me I have felt safe, protected. If I seem to be making light of it sometimes, it's because I fear I might be overwhelmed if I don't." He squeezes Grant's hand and looks into his eyes as he finishes, softly, "Thank you, Grant."
Grant feels in danger of being overwhelmed himself; he looks away, taking a moment to compose himself. "Shall we brave it, then?" he asks.
Gerard draws in a deep breath, lets it out, and nods. "Yes. One way or another, I need to know."
The next day, a police constable from the nearest town answers Grant's summons. Grant and Gerard relate Gerard's story to him, and he takes a down a report to be checked against recent missing persons cases. He also departs with a sketch of Gerard, drawn by Grant as they sat in the library last night.
After that, there's nothing to do but wait. And as they wait, Grant finds himself growing ever more attached to Gerard, against every reason not to. For as short a time as they've known each other and as much is still a mystery about Gerard, they've grown close, and the easy intimacy established when Gerard was still an invalid has continued.
Grant's attraction to Gerard seems stronger every day, and sometimes just being near him is torture, but Grant is determined to keep himself reined in. Aside from all the reasons--and there are many--that declaring himself would be foolish, he tells himself that what Gerard most needs him to be is a friend. If he recovers his memories, and if after that Grant still has even a flicker of hope that Gerard might return his feelings, perhaps then he can risk it.
For now, he lets himself be Gerard's friend. He tries not to feel like a liar whenever they're close to each other, or to think of Gerard's easy smiles and gentle touches as anything more than gestures of friendship.
On a morning a little more than a month since the day Grant found Gerard out on the moors, he goes looking for him in the library, a folded letter in his hand.
Gerard is seated on the chaise that's become a favorite spot of his, a book open on his lap. He glances up as Grant enters the room, then sits up a little straighter when he sees Grant's expression. "What is it?"
"I've received a letter--which you may read for yourself if you like, of course," Grant says. "It's from a Michael Way, whose brother Gerard, matching your description, vanished quite suddenly just over a month ago."
Gerard stares first at him, and then at the letter in Grant's hand. He rises, extending a hand, and Grant walks toward him.
"The family has been searching in the area around their home in England," Grant says as he hands the letter over. "But they hadn't found anything that would lead them as far as Scotland, until recently." He's talking mainly out of nerves, he realizes, as Gerard can easily read for himself, and falls quiet to let him do so.
Gerard reads in silence, his face pale and intent as his eyes scan the page. "Michael Way," he says softly after a moment, and looks up at Grant. "Unless this is some kind of hoax, it seems I have a brother."
"Indeed," Grant says, keeping his own eyes fixed on Gerard's face. "Shall I write back to him?"
"Yes," Gerard says, slowly, almost reluctantly. "Yes, I suppose you had better."
"Gerard?" Grant lays a hand on his arm gently. "We don't have to--"
"Of course we do," Gerard replies softly. "For his sake as much as for mine--what he must be going through--"
"But you're afraid," Grant says, moving closer to him. "Remember what we spoke of before. You needn't commit to anything but meeting with him."
Gerard sighs, shaking his head. "I am afraid, but it's nothing to do with what we talked about before." He paces away from Grant a little, folding his arms, then paces back over to the chaise and throws himself down on it. "I'm afraid of what it will mean if he comes here, and calls me brother, and I look him in the eyes and still don't know him." He rubs his hands over his face tiredly. "What if I never remember, Grant? What if I never know who I am?"
Grant crosses to him and kneels in front of Gerard, gently tugging his hands away and clasping them in his own.
"I know who you are," he says softly, and Gerard looks at him in surprise. "You're Gerard. You prefer coffee to tea and Blake to Milton. You love beautiful things and you find beauty in places others wouldn't even bother to look. My cats make you sneeze and you try not to complain about it because you don't want to seem ungrateful. You're kind, but I've seen flashes of temper in you, and I suspect I would see more if you weren't trying so hard to be a gracious guest." Gerard is staring at him, lips parted slightly, and Grant squeezes his hands gently. "Your memories are a part of who you are, and I hope with all my heart you find them again. But if you don't, you'll still be yourself."
He barely manages to finish speaking before Gerard leans in and presses his mouth to Grant's.
Grant holds still at first, not daring to move. Gerard's lips are soft against his, and after a moment he frees his hands and lifts them to frame Grant's face, fingertips tracing over his skin lightly. Grant raises his own hands and curls them around Gerard's wrists, pressing back into the kiss. Gerard opens his mouth under Grant's, heat catching between them like wildfire. As the kiss deepens, Gerard leans forward so far he overbalances. Grant catches him with both hands and sinks back on his heels, and they land in a heap on the floor, Gerard half in Grant's lap, Grant holding Gerard by the waist as they kiss and kiss, until they're both quite breathless.
Gerard tilts his head down against Grant's neck, hands still cupping his face, and Grant presses his lips to Gerard's brow. For a few moments, there's no sound but heavy breathing from both of them.
"I would ask why neither of us did that before," Gerard says at length, "But I'm afraid I know the answer."
Grant lifts a hand to comb through Gerard's hair. "I've wanted to kiss you like that since you woke from your fever," he replies softly. "But aside from not knowing if such a thing would be welcome..."
"There's my situation," Gerard whispers. "There could be something I can't remember that means we shouldn't do this."
"You could be married," Grant says. "Or promised to someone. Or...anything."
Gerard tilts his head back to look at Grant, and it's physically painful not to kiss him again. "Perhaps we're being too cautious," he says, though Grant can tell from his eyes and voice that he's trying to convince himself as much as Grant. "It's hard to believe that I could feel that way about someone and forget them completely, that I wouldn't still somehow sense that there was a reason I shouldn't--"
Grant brings his hand to Gerard's face, tracing his lower lip with a thumb. "I don't think that's how it works," he says sadly. "No matter how I wish it were." Gerard's face crumples a bit, and Grant cups his cheek gently. "Gerard, the hard choice here is yours, not mine. If you're willing to risk whatever consequences there might be, say the word and I'm yours."
Gerard looks at him for a long moment, then lets out a sigh and closes his eyes. "I can't."
Grant's heart swells with admiration for him, even through the ache. "Then we'd better get off the floor," he says. "I'm not certain I trust myself with you in my arms."
Gerard holds onto him when he starts to pull away. "Kiss me again," he says, practically pleading. "Just once more, and I'll try to be content with that."
Grant doesn't think he could refuse Gerard anything right now. He draws close again, one hand in Gerard's hair, the other wrapped around his waist, and kisses him deeply. Gerard twines both arms around Grant's neck and melts into him, and it's several moments before Grant can induce himself to pull back. He lets his hands linger on Gerard for just a moment longer, and then stands, offering a hand down to help Gerard up. Gerard takes a moment to compose himself, breathing deeply, and then takes Grant's hand, backing away to a respectable distance as soon as he's on his feet.
"I'll write back to this Michael, then," Grant says. "And we'll see what we make of him."
"And what he makes of me," Gerard adds in a low voice.
Grant nods, lingering where he stands for a few moments longer. "Gerard..." he says softly. "If it turns out that there are no obstacles..."
Gerard smiles at him, warm and sincere despite the lingering sadness in his eyes. "If that happens, just try and keep me away," he promises.
Grant posts his reply that afternoon. Michael writes back to confirm the plan that Grant suggests, and a few days after that letter, two young men arrive at the estate. Grant goes to meet them in the front hall, with Gerard waiting in the parlor.
Grant knows Michael Way at once. He's a marked contrast to Gerard, taller and more angular, but Grant can see enough similarity in Michael's face to have no doubt that he's a relation. The other man is smaller and seems younger, with dark brown hair curling around his collar and golden brown eyes. Grant doesn't think he's a relation, at least not a close one, though he's also similar to Gerard in at least one way--he's strikingly pretty.
Grant greets Michael, who shakes his hand and then turns to his companion. "This is Frank Iero," he says. "My father's ward, who's as anxious to see Gerard as I am." Iero gives a slightly brusque nod, which Grant returns. "You spoke in your letter about wanting to proceed gently, so as not to overwhelm Gerard, and causing him any more distress is the last thing I'd want," Michael goes on. "But I thought perhaps it might be all right if I see Gerard first, and then Frank joins us if that meeting goes well."
Iero doesn't seem overly fond of that plan--a muscle twitches in his jaw as Michael speaks, and he keeps his eyes fixed on the stone archway that leads to the rest of the house, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of Gerard. But he voices no objection, just stands at Michael's side with his hands clasped behind his back.
Michael's letters had made no mention of his bringing someone else with him, and Grant feels his hackles rise briefly--they agreed on a plan, and this wasn't it. But as Iero doesn't seem to pose any obvious threat, Grant supposes it's not his place to deny him. It should be Gerard's decision.
"Very well," Grant says. "Mr. Iero, if you'd like anything while you wait, just ring the bell."
Iero nods, turning his clear, direct gaze to Grant for a moment. "Thank you," he says.
Grant gestures for Michael to follow him, and leads him through to the parlor. Gerard was sitting in an armchair when Grant left him. He's pacing anxiously in front of the fireplace now, but he comes to a halt when they come in.
Michael advances into the room, staring at him. Their wide-eyed expressions match.
"Gerard--" Michael says, searching his face. "You really don't know me, do you?" The emotion in his voice is soft, understated, but Grant can tell he's shaken.
Gerard doesn't answer right away, studying Michael intently. Grant can read him much more easily; he's working through something in his mind and trying to find the right words to put to it.
"I...I can't rightly say that I remember you," he says eventually. "There are no memories of you in my mind, nothing solid I can lay my hands on." Michael draws in a sharp breath, looking stricken, and Gerard quickly steps closer to him, holding out a hand. "But I know you."
"You do?" Michael takes his hand, hope creeping into his voice.
Gerard nods, gripping his hand. "I feel I would know you anywhere. Even without memories. The moment I saw your face, I knew it was familiar, and dear--"
Michael closes the last of the distance between them, pulling Gerard into his arms. Gerard seems frozen for a moment, arms loose at his sides, and then he brings them up around his brother. His face is half-hidden in Michael's shoulder, eyes squeezed shut.
"I was so afraid--" Michael begins in a choked voice. "But it doesn't matter now. You're safe."
"I'm sorry I don't remember you," Gerard says, sounding truly remorseful, as if it were somehow his fault.
Michael shakes his head, pulling back to hold Gerard at arm's length. "That doesn't matter, either. You're here, you're whole, and God willing, you'll get your memories back in time."
"I hope so," Gerard says. "Until then you'll have to tell me things. There's so much I'm dying to know."
"Anything," Michael assures him, and then pauses. "Gerard...I suppose, if you don't even remember me, there's not much chance you remember Frank."
Gerard shakes his head. "I remember almost nothing, and what I do--well, that's another story. Who is this Frank?"
"He came here with me," Michael explains. "He's our father's ward, and he's lived with us for years, since his parents died. To me he's like a second brother, but to you--" he breaks off, glancing toward Grant as if just remembering they aren't alone.
Something about the way he pauses strikes Grant. Michael's expression, so open a moment ago, goes closed-off and secretive, and Grant feels a quick stab of nerves in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps he can hazard a guess as to what Frank Iero is to Gerard, and from the wide-eyed look Gerard gives him, perhaps Gerard can as well.
Gerard turns back to Michael, swallows hard, and speaks calmly. "Michael...I trust Grant explicitly. Whatever you have to say, you can say with him present."
Michael darts another furtive look at Grant. "Are you certain of that?" he asks, increasing Grant's suspicion.
Gerard draws in a breath, and then asks, bluntly, "Were we lovers?"
Michael hesitates, brought up short, and the look he directs at Grant now is clearly fearful. Grant, for his part, is struggling not to let his emotions show. He doesn't know how well he succeeds, but Michael looks back at Gerard and nods.
Gerard is as pale as Grant's ever seen him, lips pressed together tightly. He looks down at the floor for a moment, still taking deep, slow breaths, as if steeling himself. Then he looks up.
"He's here?" he asks, and Michael nods again. "Would you bring him in, please?"
Michael goes at once, and as the door closes behind him, Gerard looks over at Grant. Grant wants to go to him but feels rooted to the spot, wants to say something but can't find the words. Gerard opens his mouth, as if he means to say something, but at that moment the door opens and he looks away.
Iero comes rushing into the room and then stops short a few feet away from Gerard. He's practically vibrating with tension, looking as though he's barely holding back from throwing himself at Gerard.
"Gerard," he says haltingly, and then stops.
Gerard looks back at him steadily. "And you're Frank," he replies softly.
"Yes," Iero says, taking another step toward him. One of his hands lifts as if to reach out to Gerard, and then drops back to clench at his side.
Gerard moves closer to him and holds out his own hand, offering a wavering, uncertain smile. "I know how strange this must be for you. I'm sorry."
Iero takes Gerard's hand in both of his and clings to it like a lifeline, his eyes never moving from Gerard's face. "It's so good to see you," he says, low and fervent.
Grant, for his part, can't look away from Iero's face and the emotions on display there. He knew this was a possibility. He tried to prepare himself for it. He isn't prepared.
"Gerard, are you all right?" Michael says suddenly.
Grant looks back at Gerard. His pallor has an ashen tinge now, and his breath is coming quick and shallow. He's panicking. Without thinking, Grant takes a few steps toward him. Gerard turns to look at him, then back at Iero.
"I'm sorry," he says, withdrawing his hand. "I'm so sorry, but I think I need to step out of the room for a moment."
He backs away and then practically flees the room, leaving Michael and Iero looking distressed and Grant wanting to follow him but feeling he shouldn't leave them so abruptly.
"I overwhelmed him," Iero says, sounding miserable. "I shouldn't have--"
Michael moves toward him, laying a hand on his shoulder, and looks at Grant. "Should we--?"
"Let me go," Grant says.
He finds Gerard in the library, standing by one of the windows. He's curled in on himself tightly, shoulders hunched and arms wrapped around his chest.
"Gerard?" Grant approaches slowly, and Gerard doesn't look at him or speak, so Grant lays a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Please talk to me."
"When I saw Frank, I felt the same thing with him as I did with Michael," Gerard says without turning. "That same sense of him being someone I've known and loved dearly, even if I can't remember it." He turns to face Grant, looking stricken. "I didn't want to believe that could happen, that I could feel that way about someone and still--even after we talked about it, I didn't want to believe it was possible."
"It's a hard thing to believe," Grant says. He doesn't trust himself to say any more than that.
Gerard looks up at him. "Even without my memories, I can tell my feelings for Frank were very strong." He shakes his head. "Were, are, I don't even know which is right. But what I feel for you seems no less genuine, for all that it's newer. I don't know what that means for me, for us."
Grant reaches up to brush the back of his hand across Gerard's cheek. "It means you have a generous heart, which is, I think, no bad thing," he tells him. "But it also means our situation has become rather more complicated."
"That's putting it mildly," Gerard says, and looks at Grant uncertainly as he asks, softly, "Grant, what are we to do?"
Grant takes Gerard in his arms, not letting himself think that it might be for the last time. "I don't know," he admits.
When they go back to the parlor, Gerard is composed again and Grant stays at a respectable distance. There's nothing to indicate the fact that a few minutes ago, Gerard was clinging to Grant as he tried to regain his composure, or that before letting go Grant pressed a desperate kiss into his hair and did his best to commit the feeling of Gerard in his arms to memory.
Michael and Iero both look wretched, and Grant's heart goes out to them. No matter what his feelings are, he can't forget how difficult all this is for them.
"I'm sorry for leaving so abruptly," Gerard tells them.
"Don't worry about it," Iero replies. "Are you all right?"
Gerard nods, smiling at him. "Yes, I'm fine." He holds out one hand to Iero, who takes it, and the other to Michael, who moves closer. "There's so much we need to talk about," Gerard says. "But...perhaps not all at once."
"You're both welcome to stay here," Grant puts in. "If you'd like, I can open some rooms for you, and we can talk more over dinner."
Michael and Iero exchange glances, and then Michael nods. "Thank you," he says.
The four of them go up the stairs together, and as they reach Gerard's room first, he pauses with one hand on the door. "I'll see you both at dinner then," he says. "Frank, Mikey."
Michael starts slightly. "You called me Mikey."
Gerard pauses, brow furrowed slightly. "Yes, I did. Should I not have?"
Michael shakes his head. "No, it's just--it's a family nickname. You called me that when we were children and it stuck."
"Oh," Gerard says, and smiles softly. "Mikey, then."
Grant opens the next room down for Michael, then one across the hall for Iero. As he's about to go back to his own room to dress for dinner, Iero stops him with a soft, "Sir Morrison?"
Grant turns back toward him. "Yes?"
"I just wanted to thank you myself," Iero says. "For taking care of Gerard and helping us find him." He holds out a hand and Grant takes it; Iero's grip is warm and firm. "It means more to me than I can say."
I didn't do it for you, Grant thinks, but what he says is, "Of course. I'm glad I could be of service, Mr. Iero."
Iero smiles. "Frank, please."
Grant nods. "Very well, if you'll let me be Grant."
"As you like," Frank says, and moves back toward his room with a nod. "Grant."
Dinner is a somewhat solemn affair, given the topic of conversation. Gerard relates his memory of being in the woods, Grant the story of finding him and seeing him through the fever.
"We've been working off the theory that you were kidnapped, but we still don't know who was responsible," Mikey says. "If they meant to hold you for ransom, they never got as far as making any demands--I suppose you got away from them before they could."
Gerard nods. It would have been a risky thing, to send a ransom demand for a captive they no longer had; they would have had no way of knowing he wouldn't show up back at home.
"Tell me about my disappearance?" he asks.
"You were in the habit of going for evening walks on the grounds of our family's estate," Mikey tells him. "You went out that night, and when you weren't at breakfast the next morning I didn't think anything of it, because you also had a habit of rising late. But then the day wore on, and it came out that no one had seen you all morning, no one could find you in the house, and none of the servants could say for sure that you had come back from your walk the night before."
His voice trembles a bit, and Gerard reaches across the table, laying his hand over Mikey's. "What did you do?" he asks.
"We searched the estate on our own at first," Frank says. "And when we were sure you were gone, we summoned the police. They conducted their own search and found signs of a struggle on the banks of a little stream that runs through the property, and wheel ruts in the mud nearby. They followed those tracks to the nearest road, but when it joined the highway they lost the trail--couldn't even tell which direction you'd been taken in. So we just started searching everywhere, moving out from the estate in circles. We didn't know what else to do."
"I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you," Gerard says softly, looking over at him.
"We owe a great deal to a man by the name of Ray Toro, a private investigator we enlisted to help with the search," Mikey says. "He searched far and wide, and he was the one who found the report of a young man with no memory having been found in Scotland."
"I'm sorry we didn't try to find you sooner," Gerard says apologetically. "I hoped my memories would come back on their own, but there's only that one. It's as if it's blocking the rest out. I hope being around the two of you and having you tell me things about myself will help."
"Ask us anything," Frank tells him earnestly.
Gerard does just that, once they've all retired to the library. Gerard sips a cup of coffee and fires away with his questions, and Grant sips a tumbler of whiskey and tries not to feel like an outsider in his own home as he watches and listens.
Gerard is twenty-six, the eldest son of a country squire with a small but prosperous estate. Both his parents are still living, and he has no other siblings besides Michael.
"And you?" Gerard asks, turning to Frank. "I know you're our father's ward, but are you a relation?"
Frank shakes his head. "No--my parents and yours were friends. That's how I ended up as the Squire's ward."
Gerard raises his eyebrows curiously. "Go on?" he prompts.
"My parents both died when I was thirteen," Frank explains solemnly. "The guardian named in my father's will, my closest living relative, was an uncle living in America, and when he came to settle their affairs there was talk of my going back with him. But though he was never unkind to me, we'd barely met and his own children were grown. When your father offered to take me in instead, I think my uncle was relieved."
As he listens, Gerard starts to look at Frank rather as one might look at a stray puppy, as though he wants to wrap Frank in his jacket and stroke his hair. Grant can't pretend to like seeing him look at Frank that way, but he himself isn't unaffected by the story.
Frank takes in the look on Gerard's face and shakes his head, smiling. He has a radiant smile. "No, no, I'm not to be pitied. I'm afraid I've made my uncle sound dreadful, but he's done well by me. He thought I would be happier staying with your family, and I have been, so I thank him for it."
"Well, that's good, then," Gerard says, smiling. "If you had gone to America, I don't suppose we should have seen very much of you thereafter."
There's another part to the story, of course--how Frank and Gerard became lovers. Grant doesn't imagine that story will be told in his presence.
Grant comes downstairs the next morning to find Gerard already in the breakfast room, sitting with a cup of coffee in front of him and gazing out of the window.
"You're up early this morning," Grant says, pouring himself a cup, and Gerard looks over at him and smiles.
"I was too excited to sleep in," he says, leaning forward eagerly. "Grant, I think I'm starting to remember."
"Really?" Grant asks, sitting down beside him. "Gerard, that's wonderful."
"It's just a few little things so far--images, mostly, flashing through my mind," Gerard explains. "Things like my parent's faces, and what our house looks like. I suppose some of it could just be my imagination--"
Grant shakes his head, reaching for Gerard's hand before he thinks better of it. "Don't. Let yourself be excited," he says, and smiles. "It's wonderful news."
Gerard smiles back at him, turning his hand over under Grant's. Grant hates that the moment of intimacy between them now feels stolen, but he treasures it all the same. Then there are footsteps in the hallway, and he and Gerard draw apart as Frank and Mikey enter the breakfast room.
Gerard shares his news with them, and it's hard for Grant to hold on to any uncharitable feeling in the face of their happiness for him.
This might be easier, Grant thinks, if he could convince himself that Frank was undeserving of Gerard's love. Then he could be angry, and anger might be preferable to what he's feeling now. But of course Frank doesn't seem at all undeserving. He seems kind and clever as well as young and beautiful, it's obvious he loves Gerard very much, and in the face of Frank's concern and devotion Grant feels hopeless.
It's a fine day, so Gerard, Frank, and Mikey decide to go out to the gardens after breakfast, to talk some more. Grant begs off to tend to a few things, and when he finishes his work he knows he could go find them, but remains alone in his study instead.
Early in the afternoon, there's a knock at the door, and when Grant answers Gerard sticks his head in.
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?" he asks.
"Never," Grant assures him, waving Gerard over to a chair near his own.
Gerard sits, folding his hands in his lap and looking down at them. "I've been thinking," he says in a low voice. "It means so much that you've offered your home to me as a safe haven, and I still think it was wise to go about this cautiously. But now that I've met Mikey and Frank--perhaps it's unwise to believe everything they say, or trust them without question, but I do. I feel very strongly that I should."
Grant nods. "You should trust your intuition. And for what it's worth, they both seem trustworthy to me as well."
"So...there's no real reason for me not to return home with them. And there are reasons I should, to see my parents and hopefully speed the return of my memories."
"Yes," Grant says softly. He knew this was coming. "Yes, of course, you should go home."
Gerard's smile is tinged with sadness, and he reaches over to touch Grant's forearm where it rests on the arm of his chair. "Grant, there aren't words...what you've done for me..."
"Was my pleasure," Grant says, covering Gerard's hand with his own. "Truly."
Gerard smiles at him. "Thank you," he says, pressing Grant's arm. "For everything."
He sits back in his chair, seeming to fold in on himself, and his eyes are downcast when he speaks again. "I still don't know what to do. About...us. And Frank."
Grant wants to say a great many things in response to that, but only one response seems right. "Give yourself time," he says. "You've only just had Frank come back into your life, and you still have other concerns. It wouldn't be fair to either him or yourself to try and make a decision now."
Gerard looks up at him, biting his lip. "And what would be fair to you?" he asks softly.
Grant shakes his head. "Don't worry about me. I can wait."
"You've been so patient already," Gerard says, in what Grant has come to recognize as the tone he uses when he thinks he doesn't deserve whatever kindness he's being shown.
"I don't want to be patient," Grant says in a low voice, meeting his eyes. "I want to take you to my room and take you to bed right now, and hang all the reasons we shouldn't." Gerard lets out a soft gasp, and Grant goes on. "But doing that and having you come to regret it might be the only thing more terrible than never doing it."
Gerard looks at him for a moment with undisguised longing in his eyes, then looks down, swallowing hard. "I'm sorry I got us into this mess," he murmurs.
"Don't," Grant says, shaking his head. "You have nothing to apologize for. Not to me, not ever."
Mikey and Frank are more than happy to hear that Gerard's ready to go home, and they plan to depart the next morning. Grant wants to protest that it's too soon but doesn't have any legitimate reason to do so.
Faced with early rising in the morning, they all retire soon after dinner that night. Grant is just starting to undress, loosening his collar and unbuttoning his waistcoat, when there's a soft knock at his door. He crosses to the door and opens it a crack, then wider when he sees it's Gerard.
Gerard hesitates when he sees Grant's state of undress. "I--" he begins haltingly, his voice very quiet. "I wanted to say goodbye."
He doesn't need to say the rest--that they won't be able to say goodbye privately tomorrow morning, that this may be their last chance to be alone.
Grant steps back to let Gerard into the room and shuts the door behind him. Gerard hasn't set foot in Grant's bedroom in all the time he's been here, and Grant wonders for a moment what would happen if he reached out, if he took Gerard in his arms and kissed him. Would Gerard push him away, remind him of what he'd said earlier, or would he kiss back and let Grant tug him over to the bed?
Grant keeps his hands at his sides, and Gerard keeps his distance, looking at Grant solemnly for a moment before he speaks.
"I wish there was something I could say," he says. "You haven't asked for any promises and I know it's best if I don't give them, but I wish..." he trails off, then finishes, helplessly, "I hate leaving you like this."
Grant does reach for him then. He can't help himself. He cups Gerard's cheek in his hand and Gerard steps closer, leaning into the touch.
"My sweet boy," Grant murmurs, and then sighs. "I suppose I shouldn't call you that. You never were mine, much as I hoped you might be."
"Yes, I was," Gerard whispers softly--so softly, eyes cast downward, like it's a confession. Grant draws him closer, framing his face with both hands now, and after a moment Gerard looks up at him. "I think a part of me always will be."
Grant looks into his eyes for a moment, then tilts Gerard's head down and presses his lips to Gerard's forehead. Gerard lifts his hands to cover Grant's, letting out a little sigh, and Grant lets the kiss linger for a long moment before he pulls back to look Gerard in the eyes again.
"I don't want you to worry about me. I'll be all right," he says, and hopes he sounds convincing. "Go where you need to go, do what you need to do. I'll be here waiting for you if you want me. And no matter what happens, I will treasure the memory of our time together, and I will always be your friend."
Gerard nods, blinking past the tears forming in his eyes. He puts his hands on Grant's shoulders and leans in to kiss him. It's gentle and almost chaste, but for the longing Grant can feel behind it, echoed by his own. It would be so easy to put his arms around Gerard and deepen the kiss. So easy, and impossible to undo.
Gerard steps back, and Grant lowers his hands. Gerard trails his hand down Grant's arm to his wrist, and Grant clasps his hand for a moment before letting go.
"Goodbye, Grant," Gerard says as he steps back toward the door. "For now."
"Goodbye, Gerard," Grant says softly.
Gerard and the others depart early the next morning. Mikey and Frank thank Grant profusely for his hospitality, and Gerard's eyes say everything he can't say aloud. Grant plays the gracious host, sees them off and watches their carriage until it turns around a bend and out of sight.
He goes to his study and spends the rest of the day there, taking his meals at his desk, seeing to anything and everything that needs his attention. He can't quite face the thought of going down to the dining room and sitting at table alone, not yet.
When Grant finally retires for the evening, some perverse urge makes him walk past Gerard's room. It's already been turned down by the servants, and Gerard might never have been there. Grant stands in the doorway for a moment, looking at the neatly made bed, the empty fireplace, the chair he used to sit in at Gerard's bedside put back in its usual place by the window. Then he shuts the door and proceeds down the hall to his own room, alone.
Frank hates uncertainty. It ties his stomach in knots and makes him want to pace the floor. Which is bad enough in itself, but he can't exactly pace the floor of a moving carriage, so right now his nervous energy has nowhere to go.
He never really let himself believe Gerard wouldn't remember them, even after they heard the police report and received Sir Morrison's letter. He'd concocted some fantasy that the sight of himself and Mikey would bring Gerard's memories flooding back at once, and he'd clung to that idea, because the alternative seemed too awful to contemplate.
It could be so much worse, he keeps reminding himself. Gerard could have been more badly hurt, or not know them at all. They could still be searching for him. He could have been found by someone far less kind and generous than Sir Morrison. All things considered, they've been very fortunate.
None of which changes the fact that Frank is aching to put his arms around Gerard or take hold of his hand, and he can't right now.
Next to Frank, Mikey leans forward to look out the window, and then glances at Gerard, sitting across from them. "We'll be coming up on the house in a moment," he says.
Gerard leans over, bracing his hands on the glass and almost putting his nose against it. He studies the house as it comes into view, brow furrowed slightly. Frank studies his face. He can't imagine what it must feel like, to look at a building you have no memory of and be told it's your home.
Gerard smiles, and that only makes Frank want to touch him even more badly. "It looks the way I thought it would," he says.
When they reach the house, Frank hangs back while the Squire and Lady Way greet Gerard with tearful embraces. Gerard looks a bit overwhelmed, as he had greeting Frank and Mikey, but he bears up well.
Sweet Pea wanders up and paws at Frank's leg, and he bends to scoop her up and cradles her against his chest as he watches. It's strange to see Gerard look so out of place here--particularly after how at home he'd looked in Sir Morrison's house.
They rest from their journey briefly, then go down to dinner.
"I think it's best if you don't go anywhere outside the house alone for the time being, even on the grounds of the estate," the Squire advises. "We've had men patrolling the grounds at night since your disappearance, but it seems best to err on the side of caution."
Gerard retires early that evening, tired both from the journey and from the strain he's been under. Frank finds himself restless, playing with the dogs for a while but getting little enjoyment from it, and wandering through the library but rejecting everything he considers reading. Finally, he goes and knocks on Mikey's door, and finds him still up.
They sit in front of the fire, not saying much. Frank's known few people in his life so far who he can sit and not-talk with as comfortably as with Mikey.
"I plan to show Gerard around the house and grounds tomorrow," Mikey tells him. "You'd be welcome to join us, of course."
Frank nods, smiling, and they lapse back into silence.
Frank keeps thinking back to their time at Grant's, to how kind and solicitous he'd been and the sadness Frank had seen in him, despite his attempt to conceal it, when they took their leave. To the fact that Grant had been the one able to calm and reassure Gerard when he was upset. To the way he'd looked at Gerard and the way Gerard had looked back.
He's jumping to conclusions, he tells himself. He doesn't even know if Grant is, well, like them (although he is an attractive, wealthy, middle-aged man with no wife, so it doesn't seem farfetched to think he might be). Even if Frank's jumped to a correct conclusion, Gerard lost all his memories of Frank through no fault of his own. Frank has no right to feel betrayed or angry.
Only telling himself that doesn't make the feelings go away. It just makes them settle in the pit of his stomach and gnaw at him, making him feel like the lowest creature in existence.
Frank sleeps poorly and goes down to breakfast early, finding Mikey there and the rest of the family still abed. Gerard joins them shortly afterward, and the first thing he says as he fixes himself a cup of coffee is to ask, "Do we have a grandmother?"
Mikey sets down his fork a bit too quickly, silver rattling against china, and Gerard turns to look at him, frowning at his expression. "I didn't mean to upset you."
Mikey shakes his head. "No, it's just--if you've started to remember her, I'm sorry to have to tell you she passed away last year."
"Oh." Gerard's face falls, and he sits down. "I'm sorry. We...we were quite close to her, were we not?"
Mikey nods, and reaches over to lay a hand on his arm. "She was important to us. I'm glad you remember her."
Gerard covers Mikey's hand with his own, smiling ruefully. "Things keep coming back to me in bits and pieces. It's strange, but I much prefer it to not being able to remember anything."
Frank goes along that day as Mikey shows Gerard around. Gerard asks a great many questions and sometimes comes up with things on his own, as he has before. While he's clearly glad to be rediscovering things about himself, it seems to take a toll on him, and Frank expects he's still feeling somewhat overwhelmed. He retires to his room after a few hours, but re-emerges later in the evening; his parents have extended a dinner invitation to Ray Toro, and Gerard is eager to meet him.
Frank likes Toro. He has a friendly but straightforward manner, and devotes himself to his work with single-minded tenacity.
"I'm glad to finally be able to speak with you," he says to Gerard over dinner. "Although I understand there's not much you can tell me."
"I'm afraid not," Gerard says. "Though I'll tell you what I remember, of course."
He relates the story from his end, and Toro listens solemnly, nodding and asking questions now and then.
"You didn't see any of them when you were in the forest?" he asks, and Gerard shakes his head. "What about the voices, how many were there? Can you describe them?"
Gerard closes his eyes, brow furrowed. "Three, I think. All men. One of them was Scottish, the others English." He opens his eyes. "Is any of this helpful?"
"It may be," Toro tells him. "I'm simply gathering all the information I can at this point, in the hopes it forms a useful picture eventually."
Gerard nods. "Do you have any idea at all about who might be responsible for this?"
"I have theories," Toro says. "I've been investigating anyone who might have cause for quarrel with you or your family, and considering the possibility that someone who knows the house and grounds may have been involved. Have you remembered anything about a man by the name of Pedicone?"
Gerard thinks for a moment, then shakes his head. "No. Who is he?"
"He was your valet," Frank interjects, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Until he was caught stealing about six months ago."
He's never been able to entirely let go of his anger over the incident. It wasn't just the things that were taken, but the betrayal of the family's trust, that made it so unforgivable for him, and when Toro first put forth his theory that someone familiar with the estate might have had a hand in Gerard's disappearance, Frank was the first to bring up Pedicone's name.
Gerard looks back and forth between Frank and Toro. "And you think he may have been involved?"
"I think that's one of the most likely leads I have at the moment," Toro says. "Neither the police nor I have been able to locate him, but if we ever do I'll have quite a few questions for him."
Gerard nods. "Very well."
After Toro leaves, Gerard is quiet and solemn. Unlike the night before, he sits in the parlor with the rest of the family for a while after dinner, but sits off to one side and says little, keeping his thoughts to himself. Frank glances at him now and then, wishing he could offer some sort of comfort, and more than anything else, wishing they could simply go back to the way things were before any of this happened.
Frank is in the library a few days later when Gerard comes to find him.
"I thought I might go for a walk, and I wondered if you'd like to accompany me," Gerard says. There's a touch of shyness in his smile, but lately he's seemed more at ease with Frank, and Frank takes this invitation as a good sign.
"I'd love to," he says with a smile, putting his book aside.
Gerard lets Frank decide their direction as they walk through the grounds, and out of habit Frank steers them toward a spot in the gardens where the two of them often went together in the past. It's a peaceful, sheltered spot where the stream running through the property feeds into a small pond, and there's a weathered stone bench under the spreading branches of an elm tree.
It's also a place they used for trysts more than once in the past, lying together on a blanket spread out over the soft grass, and Frank tries to put thoughts of such things out of his mind.
"There are things I've wanted to ask you," Gerard says as they sit on the bench together. "Things I've been reluctant to ask about in mixed company."
Frank nods. He's been expecting they would come to this, eventually. "Ask me anything you like."
"Tell me about us?" Gerard asks. "How did we..." he trails off, gesturing vaguely, but Frank has no doubt what he means.
He leans back on the bench, stretching his legs out in front of him and wondering how to tell it.
"When I first came to live here, you and I weren't overly close," he begins at length. "We got along well enough, but you were eighteen and away at university a good deal of the time, so I didn't bond with you the way I did with Mikey. I never thought of you as a brother, the way I did--do--with him."
Gerard watches him intently as he speaks, and Frank casts his eyes downward. This is the closest they've been to one another since Gerard was found.
"When you finished university, you went on a tour of the Continent. You were gone a little over a year. And while you were gone, I grew up a bit and...learned a few things about myself. And then you came home a little more worldly and experienced--I never got all the details out of you, but I think you learned a few things yourself, on the Continent--and God, it was like getting struck by a thunderbolt. I couldn't believe I'd been so blind and stupid as to not be in love with you all along."
Gerard smiles. "And what happened then? Which of us took the first step?"
Frank looks up at him, grinning wryly. "Well, I threw myself at you rather awkwardly, and you turned me down."
Gerard blinks. "Why on earth would I do that?" he asks, which Frank finds rather gratifying.
"You seemed to think I was still too young and innocent to really know what I was about," Frank informs him, still smiling. "You said you didn't want to lead me astray."
"What did you do?" Gerard asks, a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
"I wooed you," Frank says, and Gerard's smile widens. "I made it quite clear that whether you would lead me astray or not, I had no intention of following any other path." He can't keep a note of pride out of his voice and he finishes. "It took some time, but I won you over."
"I have no trouble believing that," Gerard says.
Frank looks at him, and Gerard's gentle smile and his closeness and the intimacy of the moment go to his head like too much wine. Impulsively, he leans in and presses his lips to Gerard's.
Gerard makes a startled noise and lifts his hand to Frank's cheek, but only lets it rest there, lightly, and doesn't pull away. Frank kisses him gently, softly, his heart hammering in his chest.
Then Gerard pulls back and gives his head a small shake--more as though he were trying to clear his head than as if to say no, Frank thinks. "I'm sorry, Frank--I can't--"
Frank draws back, Gerard's words settling on him like a cold weight. "I'm sorry," he says quickly. "I meant to wait, I didn't mean to--"
Gerard lays a hand on his arm, stopping him from withdrawing further. "It's all right," he says, and then draws his hand back. "But...I can't. Not yet."
Frank looks down, swallowing hard. "Is it because of Grant?" he asks before he can stop himself.
Gerard hesitates for a long moment. "Frank, you must understand--"
"I do understand," Frank tells him. "I don't hold you at fault, no matter what happened--but what did happen?"
Gerard draws in a deep breath, closing his eyes. "We kissed," he says softly. "We stopped ourselves from going any further, but--"
Frank has suspected this, brooded over the possibility of it, but Gerard's confirmation strikes him hard all the same. Impulsively, he starts to stand and move away from the bench, but Gerard grabs his wrist.
"It was the thought of you that stopped us," he says hastily. "Or, well, the thought that there may be someone in my life."
"I would not keep you tied to me through a sense of obligation," Frank says, refusing to meet Gerard's eyes. "If you would rather be free to be with him--"
"Frankie, would you stop?" Gerard asks, tugging on his arm.
The use of the nickname--the first time he's heard it since they found Gerard--brings Frank up short, and he lets Gerard pull him back down onto the bench.
"I do have strong feelings for Grant, but also for you," Gerard tells him. "The moment I saw you, without any memory, I still knew you were someone I care for very deeply. And every day since, those feelings have only grown stronger. I care for you both, and I don't want to hurt either of you. So I don't know what to do." Frank does look up at that, and sees tears gathering in Gerard's eyes. "Please don't be angry."
Frank moves to take Gerard's hand in both of his. "I'm not," he says quickly. "I'm not. I'm sorry for the way I reacted."
Gerard squeezes his hand gratefully. "I know I have a decision to make eventually, but...can you be patient for a while, until I can?"
It's not an unreasonable request, at all, and Frank wants to give Gerard whatever he needs, do anything he can to make this easier on him. Frank is also not the most patient of men, but he can at least try.
"Of course," he says with a nod.
A few weeks pass, during which Gerard continues to adjust to being home again. Memories keep coming back to him, piece by piece, and while he has yet to recover everything, he seems more like his old self every day.
Meanwhile, Frank does his best to be patient. It's difficult sometimes, to be near Gerard and not touch him or kiss him as he wants to. But it's still a relief just to have him back home and safe, to be able to see him and talk to him and even simply spend time in the same room as him.
They're in the parlor together one afternoon, Frank with a book, Gerard seated at a small writing desk by the window. Ostensibly, he sat down to write a letter (which Frank suspects is to Grant, since he doesn't think Gerard has revived any of his correspondence since before the abduction), but he mainly seems to be fiddling with his pen, and at length he sets it down and turns to look at Frank.
"I'm thinking of inviting Grant for a visit," he says, and Frank makes himself react neutrally, with only a slight raise of his eyebrows. "I'd like to try and repay some of his hospitality, and I think he might like to see for himself that I'm doing well at home."
Frank looks down at his book, rifling the edges of the pages with his thumb. "You should do as you think best, of course."
He can still feel Gerard's eyes on him, and after a moment Gerard says, "Frank, this isn't me making a decision. I wouldn't--I wouldn't do it this way."
"I know," Frank says, and gives a light shrug. "Ask him, if you like. I don't mind, and it's not as though you need my permission in any case."
"No, but..." Gerard trails off with a sigh, and then picks up his pen. "Very well."
Grant arrives a few days later. The entire family turns out to greet him, the Squire and Lady Way eager to meet the man who helped their son so much. Gerard greets him warmly, clasping Grant's hand in both of his.
"It's good to see you," he says.
"And you," Grant replies, smiling at him.
Frank already knows how gracious a host Grant can be; he quickly proves to be an equally pleasant guest, and the evening of his arrival is filled with lively conversation. He seems very glad to be among them all, not just with Gerard. Frank thinks again of how sad he'd seemed when they'd left him, of how he'd dwelt alone but for the staff in that big house before he found Gerard and gone back to being alone there after.
Urged to tell more about himself by Lady Way, Grant talks about his life, and it's hard even for Frank not to feel charmed by him. He seems to have led a fascinating life, he's written books and traveled and done all sorts of interesting things, but he demurs, playing them off as simply ways he's found to keep busy.
"I find I can't be content in idleness for too long," he says with a self-deprecating smile. "And since I was fortunate enough to inherit a living, I've had to find ways to keep myself occupied."
They retire to the parlor after dinner, and Gerard hands Grant a glass of Scotch whiskey with a smile and takes a seat near him. Frank, sitting a few feet away with a book, feels oddly as though he's eavesdropping on the conversation that ensues, even though they know he's there and they aren't trying for secrecy.
"You seem to be doing well," Grant says, looking at Gerard with unmistakable fondness.
"I am," Gerard replies. "Being home has been good for me. I do find myself missing Scotland at times, though."
"You'll have to come back for a proper visit, when you're ready," Grant tells him. "I'm to tell you from Mary that everyone misses you terribly; they've had to get used to just dealing with me day in and day out again."
"Well, I'm glad I can give them a temporary reprieve from having to deal with you, then," Gerard says, with a teasing note in his voice and a warm smile.
Frank lowers his head, focusing on his book, and tells the knot in his stomach to go away. It doesn't cooperate.
He doesn't feel any better the next morning, and sits in discontented silence at the breakfast table. When Lady Way comments asks if he's feeling all right, he blames it on having slept poorly the night before, but doesn't miss the concerned glance Gerard gives him.
He truly wishes he could put aside his bad feeling--not only for Gerard's sake, but because he doesn't want to let it come out as hostility toward Grant. Frank's still acutely conscious of how much they all owe Grant, and now he's a guest in their home. Frank should be able to mind his manners, if nothing else.
But it's difficult. It's difficult to see them together and not think about what passed between them, or wonder what's going through Gerard's mind now. Frank is certain he isn't intentionally flirting with Grant while Frank is in the room--he wouldn't do that--but he can't seem to help the way he looks at him, or the slight inflection his voice takes on, a tone Frank recognizes from all the times Gerard's spoken to him that way.
Later that day, Frank goes to the library in search of something to distract him from brooding, only to have his plan fall through when he finds Gerard giving Grant a tour. He feels an irrational, territorial stab of anger, as though Gerard doesn't have every right to be in the library with whoever he pleases. And then Gerard ducks his head with a self-deprecating laugh, his hair falling in his eyes, and Grant gives him a look so quietly intense that Frank actually shivers.
Grant spots him in the doorway first and gives a pleasant nod. "Frank, hello."
"I'm sorry," Frank blurts out, already backing out of the room when Gerard looks up. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything."
Gerard's brow furrows. "You aren't," he says. "Frank--"
Frank turns and starts down the hall, hearing Gerard follow him.
"Frank," Gerard calls after him, obviously upset, and Frank stops walking.
"What?" he asks bluntly, turning to see Gerard approaching him with his arms folded. Gerard waits until he gets close, so that he can keep his voice low.
"Are you going to be this rude the entire time he's here?" he demands. "Because if so, I'd like to know so I can apologize for you in advance."
Frank glares at him for a moment, then looks down, swallowing hard. "I'm sorry," he mumbles.
Gerard lets out a sigh, then says, softly, "You said you didn't mind my asking him here. Should I not have taken you at your word?"
"I'm sorry," Frank says again. "I didn't know I would find it this difficult to see you together." He glances up, and the stricken look on Gerard's face makes him feel incredibly guilty. "You're right, I told you I didn't mind. And I know I shouldn't take my feelings out on him or you by being rude. I'll try to do better from now on."
Gerard lays a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. "Thank you."
Early the next morning, wanting to try and get rid of some nervous energy before he inflicts himself on anyone else, Frank takes Sweet Pea for a long walk on the grounds. As luck would have it, he turns a corner and nearly trips over Grant, who's leaning against a low stone wall in the garden.
"Good morning," Grant says as Frank stops short. "I'm sorry if I startled you."
"I didn't think anyone else was out here," Frank says, gathering himself. He bites the inside of his cheek and reminds himself that he's supposed to be trying harder not to be rude.
"I've always been given to early rising," Grant replies. "I thought I'd come out here rather than risk disturbing anyone in the house." Sweet Pea approaches him, sniffing, but when he bends and holds out a hand to her, she darts back to Frank, who can't help but feel smugly gratified. Grant leans back against the wall again, smiling. "Ah, well, perhaps she can tell I've always been more inclined toward cats."
Frank stoops to gather Sweet Pea up, refraining from demanding an explanation for how anyone could ever prefer cats to dogs. "It's not you. She doesn't usually take to new people. Not even to me, when I first found her."
A look Frank can't decipher crosses Grant's face. "She was a stray, then?"
Frank nods, stroking Sweet Pea's ears. "I found her wandering the road near the house, thin as a rail and wary of everyone who came near her. I think she may have been mistreated by someone before she made her way here."
He looks up to see a flash of anger on Grant's face, then sympathy as he looks at the dog cradled in Frank's arms. "It seems we have a fondness for strays in common, then. That's quite a familiar tale, though with me it usually involves a cat."
Frank smiles crookedly. "Or a young man with no memories?"
Grant returns the smirk, nodding. "On rare occasions."
Frank sets Sweet Pea down and then looks up at Grant again, folding his arms across his chest. "Grant, can we be honest with one another?"
"I'd prefer it that way," Grant replies calmly.
"Gerard and I have spoken about...about what passed between you," Frank tells him.
"He mentioned that you'd talked in his letter," Grant says, looking off to the side as he adds, softly, "He's in a very difficult position."
"We all are," Frank says. "And I've found it hard to see the two of you together because of it. But for my part, I'm going to do my best to remain patient, and not press him for a decision before he's ready to make one."
Grant nods. "I feel the same way. I'm glad we agree on that."
Frank takes a deep breath, then blurts out, "Do you love him?"
Grant doesn't visibly react beyond raising his eyebrows, but there's an edge to his voice as he replies. "Is that something you need to know?"
"I know his feelings for you are serious," Frank says. "I can see it in his eyes and hear it whenever he speaks of you. If you aren't serious about him, if he would just be a--a dalliance--yes, I need to know."
Grant looks at him for a long moment, eyes searching Frank's face. Whatever he finds there seems to satisfy him, and he nods. "Yes," he says softly. "Yes, I love him."
Frank looks down, letting out a small sigh. "Good. Well, it's not terribly good for me, but..."
"You care about him very much," Grant says. "It does you credit."
Frank smiles wryly. "You know, I've never had a conversation with a romantic rival before. I wouldn't have expected it to be this civil."
He glances back up to find Grant surveying him with that calm, cool look of his, the one Frank can't even begin to decipher. "Are we rivals, Frank?"
"Are we not?" Frank returns, trying to keep his tone cool as well. "Each of us loves Gerard and wants to be his choice. Doesn't that make us rivals?"
Grant looks away for a moment. "I can't deny the first part of that, no," he says in a low voice, then looks back at Frank steadily. "All the same, I hope you can believe that I bear you no ill will."
Frank meets his eyes, not wanting to be the one who blinks first. But Grant holds his gaze calmly, and at length Frank looks away, letting out a sigh. "I know I shouldn't bear you any ill will either, after all you did to help Gerard," he says softly. "But I hate that we're in this situation." He hasn't let himself say that aloud, to anyone, and it's oddly satisfying to do so. "I hate it."
Grant takes a step closer, one hand lifting, and for a moment it seems as though he's about to lay a hand on Frank's arm or shoulder. Frank's glad when Grant's hand drops back to his side; he doesn't want anyone's pity, least of all Grant's.
But when Grant speaks, it's not pity Frank hears in his voice, but commiseration. "So do I."
Frank looks over at him. "I hate that there's no one I can blame. I mean, obviously, there are the people who took him, but--" he waves a hand.
"But since we still don't know who or where they are, they're a very unsatisfying target for blame, aren't they?" Grant finishes, his tone indicating he's had the same thought many times.
Frank nods. He hardly expected to find himself confiding in Grant this way, but there are all these things that he can't say to Gerard or Mikey without adding to their burdens, and Grant somehow seems like someone he can say them to. "To be quite honest, I wish I could blame you," he says unthinkingly, and then bites his lip. That was probably a step too far.
Grant looks almost amused. "Because I would be a convenient target?"
"But I can't," Frank goes on. "You didn't ask for this any more than Gerard or I did. You took him in and cared for him, and I can't blame you for falling in love with him, even if I wish I could."
Grant is silent for a moment, and when Frank glances up he finds Grant looking at him with a wry smile. "When you and Michael came to collect Gerard, I thought I might feel better if I could be angry, if I could resent your relationship with him. But I couldn't." He does touch Frank's arm then, just a faint brush of fingers against his sleeve. "I think we understand each other quite well, Frank."
"Understanding doesn't solve our problem," Frank says after a brief silence.
"No, it does not," Grant agrees solemnly. "But do you think it's possible for us to both go on loving Gerard and hoping to be his choice, and yet be friends in the meantime?"
Frank hesitates for a moment, then gives him an honest answer. "I don't know. But I suppose we can try."
"Very well, then," Grant replies, and holds out a hand, which Frank takes.
Things start to change between them after that. Frank still feels a pang sometimes when he sees Grant and Gerard together, but after their conversation he finds it easier to be around Grant and talk to him.
And the more time he spends around Grant, the more he realizes that if they had met in better circumstances he would probably like him unreservedly. Further conversations between them reveal that they have more things in common than their feelings for Gerard and their penchant for rescuing strays. They often find themselves in agreement on the things they discuss, though in one of their conversations Grant makes a disparaging comment about one of Frank's favorite books, leading to a spirited debate between them.
"I'm sorry," Frank says when he finally reins himself in. "I can get a bit heated discussing things I'm passionate about."
"Please, don't apologize," Grant says, and he doesn't seem offended by Frank's arguing with him--more than anything, he looks intrigued. "I enjoyed that so much I'm tempted to ask Gerard for a list of your other favorites so I can insult them as well."
Frank laughs, realizing as he does how much he enjoyed it, too. "I'd say that won't work now that you've told me about it, but I'm so contrary it probably will, anyway."
"Let's say 'spirited', it sounds much nicer," Grant says, smiling at him.
A few days later, Gerard mentions at breakfast that he and Mikey are planning to go into town for a few errands that afternoon. He's mostly kept to home since his return, but lately he's made a few excursions out--always with Mikey, Frank, or both accompanying him, as everyone is still nervous about him going anywhere alone.
"We'd be glad to show you around town if you'd care to join us," Gerard says to Grant, and then, "And Frank, of course you're invited as well, if you'd like."
Frank barely hesitates before he says yes. They walk into town--it's a few miles, but the weather is fair and not too hot--and spend a few hours completing their errands and showing Grant around. They end up at a pub where the Ways and Frank have often come in the past. Frank and Grant go to secure a booth while Gerard and Mikey order a round at the bar, and while they wait Grant picks up a conversation they were having yesterday, as if they'd never stopped. Gerard comes up with a drink in either hand to find them talking animatedly, each leaning across the table in order to hear each other better over the noise of the pub. There's an odd look on his face for a moment, and then he smiles, setting down the drinks and sliding into the booth next to Frank.
Each morning when Gerard wakes up, he writes down his dreams from the night before in a journal he's started keeping at his bedside. They don't always yield anything useful, but memories still come to him that way, off and on.
It seems strange that something like the loss of his memories and the attempt to regain them should become routine, but this is his reality now. Things flash into his mind, he marks them down and asks his family about them, and they confirm the memories as true and help him put them into context. Sometimes they tell him about things he still can't remember, and he accepts them as true because he has no reason not to, fitting them into the picture of himself that emerges.
Grant and Frank's unlikely friendship continues to develop--or perhaps it's not so unlikely, given that the qualities that drew him to both of them are the things they seem to be bonding over now. Gerard is happy to see it, but also worried about what might become of their friendship when--if--he ever faces the decision he's been putting off.
Gerard can admit to himself that part of his reason for asking Grant to come was a wild idea that being around them both at once might help clarify things for him, that his feelings for one of them may emerge as stronger. It hasn't happened. The intensity of what he feels for Grant hasn't lessened with time or distance, but with each passing day he becomes more and more aware of how strong and deep what he and Frank shared was. He wishes nothing so much as that he could divide himself in two, and lacking the ability to do so, he's at a loss.
Eventually, he breaks down and seeks Mikey's confidence.
"I've had a sense that things between you and Frank hadn't exactly gone back to the way they were before," Mikey says. "And that there was...something between you and Grant."
He seems to be taking everything Gerard tells him in stride, and there's no hint of judgement in his tone. Not for the first time since he was found, Gerard feels immensely grateful to have a brother again.
"I don't know what to do," Gerard says. "They've both been nothing but patient and understanding, but I can't keep them both hanging on a decision from me forever. And--"
"Go on," Mikey prompts.
"Sometimes I think this would be easier if they weren't both so patient and understanding," Gerard says. "If one of them decided to fight for me." Mikey looks at him askance, and Gerard clarifies, "I don't mean I want them to duel each other or anything of that sort. But if one of them were to...lay claim to me, I suppose. Make the choice for me. It may be easier for me to simply go along with that."
"And if they both did that, you'd be right back to square one," Mikey points out. "Besides, would you really want it to be that way? To be with someone who treated you like something to be claimed?"
Gerard lets out a sigh. "No, of course I wouldn't. I just can't see how I'm ever going to be able to make the choice myself."
They sit quietly for a few moments, before Mikey speaks, slowly and thoughtfully. "What if...what if you didn't choose? I mean, if you made a decision not to."
Gerard's brow furrows. "What do you mean?"
"Well." Mikey shrugs. "It's not as if no one's ever had more than one lover at once, is it? You love them both, and as you said, they've both been so understanding it's almost inconvenient. If you really can't choose between them, and you were to be honest with them about that, might they not accept it?"
Gerard looks down. He can't pretend the idea hasn't crossed his mind, that he hasn't thought about what it would be like to be shared by them. That he hasn't lain awake at night fighting the temptation to just go down the hall into one of their rooms, let whatever happens happen, and repeat it with the other the next night.
He's thought about it, so he has an answer for Mikey. "I...I think perhaps Grant would be open to such a thing. But Frank? Love's always been about commitment for him, even love that couldn't end in marriage. Could I ask him to go along with an arrangement where I wasn't fully committed to him?"
"I'm not the one who could answer that question," Mikey points out.
"But I'm afraid to ask it of him," Gerard protests. "What if he hates me for it?"
Mikey reaches over and rests a hand on his arm gently. "I can't say how he'll react. But having known Frank for most of his life, I'm fairly certain he loves you too much to ever hate you, no matter what you do."
Gerard draws in a breath and lets it out slowly. "I hope you're right about that."
He makes up his mind to speak to Grant first, being far more confident about broaching the subject with him, and approaches him the next morning.
"I've been hoping that time would make things clearer to me," he begins. "And it has, but not in the way I expected. I thought I would come to realize that there was one of you I felt more strongly for, one of you I wanted to be with...and that hasn't happened. It's only become more apparent that I can't choose."
Grant looks at him solemnly, reaching out to touch the back of Gerard's hand. "If you wanted more time to make a decision, I would wait as long as you needed me to," he says. "But that isn't what you're asking for here, is it?"
Gerard shakes his head. "I don't think any amount of time would make a difference. I love you both, and I want you both. But I don't want to hurt either of you by not being able to give you everything you want from me."
Grant looks down with a faint smile, his hand still resting gently on top of Gerard's. "Gerard," he says softly. "What I want from you is whatever you can give me. If that means sharing your heart with Frank, I'm honored to be able to call even part of it mine."
Gerard lets out a sigh of relief, smiling at him. "I hoped you would feel that way," he says. "But I need to talk to Frank, as well, and I don't know how he'll feel about it."
Grant nods, squeezing his hand gently. "I can keep waiting. Just let me know what you need from me."
Gerard leans over, pressing a light, swift kiss to Grant's cheek. "Thank you."
He speaks to Frank the next day, after finding him alone in the library.
"Are you saying you want to be with both of us?" Frank asks. His brow is furrowed, but Gerard isn't sure if he's upset or simply taking in what Gerard's telling him.
"I want to try," Gerard says. "I'm not entirely sure yet how such a thing would work, and I would understand if you couldn't accept the idea, but..." he trails off, eyes searching Frank's face. "I love you both. That's what I keep coming back to, that's the only answer I have. I love you both."
Frank swallows hard, looking down and to the side. He doesn't say anything for a long moment, and Gerard watches him and tries not to fidget or press him for an answer.
"I know you haven't come to this lightly," Frank says eventually. "I want you to be happy, and I want any part of you that you can give me." He pauses for a moment, finally looking back up at Gerard. "But I don't...I've never even imagined being part of an arrangement like this. I don't know if I can do it without coming to resent Grant or wish it was just you and me."
Gerard nods, trying not to let his disappointment show. He knew there was a chance of this. Then Frank reaches to take hold of his hand, and goes on.
"But I am willing to try," he says. "For you, I can at least do that much."
Gerard smiles, lifting his free hand to Frank's cheek. "All we can do is try," he says, and leans in to kiss Frank gently. "Thank you."
Frank kisses him again, and unlike the last time, Gerard leans into it. Frank's lips part against his, his tongue tracing Gerard's bottom lip lightly, and Gerard opens for him, sliding closer on the window seat. One of Frank's hands curls around his waist, slipping under his jacket, Gerard shifts even closer, and then footsteps sound in the hallway outside and they both pull back, flushed and breathing heavily.
Frank catches at Gerard's hand again briefly. "Later," he says softly. "Can we--?"
Gerard nods, lifting Frank's hand to his lips and pressing a swift kiss to his knuckles. "We can."
That evening, Gerard and Frank take a walk together, ending up once again at the little spot with the pond and the stone bench. The memories Gerard has of this place are still hazy, but he knows it's a place they spent a lot of time together, a place that was special to them.
It's still quite warm even with the sun going down. Both of them have already shed their jackets and loosened their collars, and Frank has rolled his sleeves up besides. When they reach the pond, Frank bypasses the little bench and settles down on the grass. He holds one hand up to Gerard, who takes it and lowers himself down as well. The grass is soft and cool and tickles a bit, and they sit together, their knees brushing and their entwined hands resting in Frank's lap.
Frank lifts his free hand to Gerard's face, tucking his hair back behind his ear. He studies Gerard's face for a long moment, then leans in to kiss him gently. Gerard curls his hand around Frank's wrist and tilts his head for a better angle, shifting closer. Neither of them moves to deepen it yet; they just remain as they are, sharing sweet, slow kisses in the deepening twilight.
Frank draws back and rests his forehead against Gerard's, hand still cupping his cheek. "I've missed this so much," he whispers.
Gerard closes his eyes. "I'm sorry I made you wait so long."
Frank presses his thumb against Gerard's lips, then tilts his head to kiss his cheek. "I would have waited forever."
Gerard kisses him, harder this time, reaching to curl one arm around Frank's waist. "No more waiting," he breathes against Frank's mouth. "Tell me what you want. Anything."
Frank brings one of his hands to Gerard's lap, sliding up his inner thigh and then tracing the shape of his cock through his trousers. Gerard gasps and pushes into the touch. "I want you in my mouth."
"Yes," Gerard whispers eagerly. "Frankie--"
"Lie down," Frank tells him, and Gerard does so at once. Frank settles alongside him, bracing himself on one arm to lean over Gerard and kiss him. He touches Gerard's cheek again and trails his hand down Gerard's throat, resting his fingers against the patch of skin exposed by Gerard's open collar. Then he slides his hand down further, over the fabric of Gerard's shirt and waistcoat, and tilts his head down to kiss where his fingers just were. Gerard twines his fingers loosely in Frank's hair as Frank continues to move downward.
Frank puts his hand on Gerard's thigh and presses gently, and with no further urging Gerard spreads his knees. Frank moves to settle between them in a crouch, smiling up at Gerard before he reaches for the fastenings of Gerard's trousers. Gerard draws in a shaky breath, lifting his hips as Frank tugs the fabric down.
Frank licks his lips, and without any preamble leans down and runs his tongue up the length of the shaft and back down. Gerard's hips arch up and he moans, almost surprised by the sensation. It seems like forever since anyone's touched him like this, and it feels new and familiar all at once.
Frank takes his time, licking and teasing. He takes just the head of Gerard's cock in his mouth and sucks gently, then pulls off and turns his head to nuzzle at the skin of Gerard's inner thigh.
Gerard writhes under him, fingers twisting in his hair. "Frank," he says softly, a note of pleading in his voice.
"I've missed this, too," Frank says, the movement of his lips tickling Gerard's shaft. "The way you taste and smell, the sounds you make--I want to make you fall apart."
"Stop teasing and do it, then," Gerard says petulantly, and Frank laughs at him.
"I've even missed that," he says, then wraps a hand around the base of Gerard's cock and slides his mouth down to meet it. Gerard lets out a sharp cry, his head falling back on the grass beneath him.
Frank pulls off almost all the way and then sinks back down, tracing Gerard's shaft with his tongue as he goes. He does that a few more times, head bobbing up and down, then sinks down as far as he can, cheeks hollowing as he sucks. Gerard moans and then brings his free hand up to cover his mouth, not wanting to be too loud. His hips jerk upward and he stills them with some effort, but Frank pulls off and looks up at him.
"Don't hold back," he says in a low, rough voice, and when he sinks back down Gerard lets his hips lift to meet it. Frank lets Gerard thrust up into his mouth, his eyes fluttering closed and his expression nothing short of blissful. Gerard pushes himself up on one elbow in order to better watch him. He combs his fingers through Frank's hair and then brings his hand around to his face, tracing a line down Frank's cheek and touching his mouth.
"You're amazing," Gerard says, his voice shaking a little. Frank moans in reply. "Your mouth is--" He breaks off with a soft cry as Frank does something clever with his tongue, head falling back again.
Gerard doesn't want it to end too soon, but it's been so long and Frank's mouth is so good, he knows he can't last much longer. He feels wound as tight as a bowstring already, and then Frank runs his tongue over the head of Gerard's cock, pressing against the slit and sucking hard at the same time.
Gerard surges up against him, barely able to gasp out a warning before his climax rushes down on him like a wave. He shudders violently, hand pressed over his mouth again, and comes hard. Frank swallows steadily as Gerard fills his mouth, not pulling off until Gerard goes still. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, then moves back up to lie beside Gerard again. His lips are swollen and he's breathing heavily and he looks so satisfied he might be the one who's just come. Gerard leans over to kiss him, tasting traces of himself in Frank's mouth.
He can feel Frank's cock against his thigh, and he reaches down to press his hand against it. "What do you want from me?" he asks softly.
"Your hands," Frank replies, pressing against him. "I love your hands. I want them everywhere."
Gerard rolls onto his knees to lean over Frank, so that he can use both hands at once. He brings them to Frank's face first, tracing gently over his features, and Frank closes his eyes and leans into the touch. Gerard works his way down, touching Frank's skin anywhere it's exposed--the line of his jaw, the space exposed by his open collar, down the length of his bare forearm until he can slip his hand into Frank's and trace his fingertips across Frank's palm.
He leans in for a kiss, moving to undo Frank's trousers, and slips his hand inside, feeling the soft skin of his lower belly, then wiry curls, then finally closing around the silky skin and hard length of Frank's cock. Frank bucks up into his hand, biting his lip to keep from crying out.
Gerard runs his fingers up and down Frank's shaft gently, relearning the size and shape of it. His other hand works on the buttons of Frank's shirt, pushing fabric aside to give himself more skin to touch. Frank writhes under him, his own hands twisting and pulling at the grass as little moans and gasps escape him. Gerard strokes him firmly and leans down to follow the path of his other hand with his mouth, and Frank arches against him with a bitten-off cry and spills over Gerard's fingers.
Gerard strokes him through it, lips still moving over his skin. Frank sinks back on the grass with a muffled curse, and Gerard looks up to see him looking a bit embarrassed.
"I meant for that to last longer," Frank mutters. "It's just been so long--"
Gerard smiles, pulling his hand out of Frank's trousers and wiping it on the grass before moving up to kiss him. "I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did," he says, and nestles against Frank's shoulder. "It's all right. I'm not going anywhere."
Frank puts his arm around Gerard's waist, clinging a little. "Never again, if I have anything to say about it."
Gerard goes to Grant's room a few nights later.
It's not exactly planned--there's no discussion, nothing arranged. Earlier that day, he finds Grant in the library leafing through a book of engravings, and joins him there. The two of them sit close enough on the settee for their thighs to touch, and Gerard leans in close as they look through the pictures, his cheek grazing Grant's shoulder. Later, there's a significant glance and a lingering brush of fingers as Gerard hands Grant a glass of after-dinner Scotch. Gerard retires early and spends some time alone in his room, feeling both eager and absurdly nervous. When he slips down the hall Grant answers his soft knock, his expression is calm and collected, but Gerard can see in his eyes that he feels the same way.
Gerard enters and Grant closes the door behind him. Standing close with one hand still on the door, he has Gerard boxed in on three sides, and stands there looking into Gerard's eyes, seemingly waiting for him to make the first move. So Gerard takes another step forward, places his hands on Grant's shoulders, and raises his mouth to Grant's.
Grant leans in, his hands sliding down Gerard's back to settle at his waist. The kiss goes from gentle and sweet to open-mouthed and hot in mere moments. They haven't kissed like this since the first time, before they stopped themselves. Grant pulls Gerard even closer, one hand splayed against the small of his back, and Gerard twines his arms around Grant's neck and presses against him. He breaks the kiss on a gasp when he feels Grant's cock against his thigh, half-hard already, and he knows that Grant can feel him as well.
Grant draws back and lifts one hand to cup Gerard's cheek, and Gerard turns his head to kiss Grant's palm, leaning into the touch.
"Beautiful boy," Grant murmurs, lips brushing Gerard's temple. "I'd hoped you would come to me tonight."
Gerard smiles into his palm. "I wasn't very subtle about my intentions earlier, was I?"
"Subtlety can be overrated," Grant replies, tilting his head down to whisper in Gerard's ear. "For instance, I don't plan to be at all subtle about telling you I want you in my bed."
Gerard shivers. "There's nowhere I'd rather be tonight."
Grant reaches down to take Gerard's hand, leading him further into the room. When they reach the foot of the bed, Grant turns to face Gerard again, reaching for the topmost button on Gerard's waistcoat. Gerard reaches for the last button, meaning to meet Grant halfway, but Grant catches both his hands, raises them to his lips, and then guides them back down to rest at Gerard's sides.
"I've thought about doing this too often to rush through it now," he says softly, hands returning to Gerard's waistcoat.
Gerard smiles and puts his arms around Grant's neck again, leaning in to kiss him as Grant goes back to work on his buttons. After what seems like forever, Grant pushes the fabric back over his shoulders, and Gerard lowers his arms to let it fall to the floor. Grant tugs at the hem of his shirt next and slides his hands under it, making Gerard gasp as his fingers glide across bare skin.
Gerard is glad he removed his cravat and loosened his collar before coming here--that much less clothing to be dealt with. Grant has done the same, and Gerard can see his throat and a bit of his clavicle through his open collar. He leans forward, breathing in Grant's scent for a moment, and then presses his lips to the skin there.
Grant hums low in his throat, a noise Gerard feels as much as he hears. "This is going to go even slower If you keep distracting me," he says.
"I don't see how 'even slower' is a possibility," Gerard complains; in return, Grant stops moving his hands entirely and Gerard lets out a whine of protest. "All right, I asked for that," he admits.
Grant kisses his temple and whispers in his ear. "Believe me, love--as much as I'm enjoying taking my time with this, I'm also eager to finish the job."
He draws back and pushes Gerard's shirt up, and Gerard lifts his arms. He shivers a little as the cool air in the room hits his skin, and Grant pulls him close. Gerard wraps his arms around Grant's waist and nestles against his chest, then tilts his head up to kiss the underside of Grant's jaw, then his cheek, and finally his mouth.
"My turn," he murmurs between kisses, reaching around to unbutton Grant's waistcoat. When it hangs open, he slips his hands under Grant's shirt. He lets his fingers wander over Grant's skin, lingering for a moment over the scar on his stomach. Then he slides his hands up slowly, and Grant lifts his arms, shrugging the waistcoat and shirt off all at once.
Grant curls his hands around Gerard's hips and tugs him close, and Gerard tilts his face up for a kiss. They stay like that for a few moments, caught up in the feeling of skin on skin. Then Gerard reaches down into his trouser pocket, drawing out the little glass bottle he brought with him.
"I've thought about this so often," he whispers. "I think what I'd like most, this first time, is for you to take me."
"It would be my pleasure to give you whatever you wanted," Grant says in his ear, running his hand up and down the length of Gerard's spine. Gerard shivers, pressing closer. "But I won't deny I've been particularly eager for that, myself."
He makes short work of the rest of Gerard's clothing, hands quick and sure, and Gerard climbs up onto the bed, kneeling on the mattress. He reaches for Grant's hips and tugs him closer, undoing the fastenings on his trousers and slipping his fingers just past the waistband. He stretches up on his knees to kiss Grant's chest, just over his heart, then lets his mouth trail down. Grant twines a hand in his hair, tightening when Gerard nips at his skin.
Gerard moves his hands around to Grant's sides, stroking over the smooth ridges of his hipbones, then pushes Grant's trousers down. Gerard glances down as Grant steps out of them, and curls one hand loosely around Grant's cock. Grant draws in a sharp breath, stiffening in Gerard's grasp as Gerard moves his fingers lightly. It doesn't take more than a few strokes to bring him to full hardness, and Gerard looks up with a wicked grin.
"I want you in my mouth next time," he murmurs, and Grant makes an incredible sound, one hand closing around Gerard's wrist to stop his strokes, the other cupping Gerard's face, thumb pressing against his lips.
"Gladly, if you'll let me return the favor," he replies in a low voice, and Gerard's breath catches at the thought. "But for now..."
He urges Gerard back on the bed, climbing up after him, and Gerard shifts to stretch out on his back, nestling into the pillows as Grant leans over him. He's kneeling beside Gerard, and his cock brushes Gerard's hip as he leans in for a kiss.
Gerard opens his mouth under Grant's, bringing his arms up to wrap around Grant's shoulders. Another time, Gerard thinks he could be quite content to simply lie with Grant and be kissed like this for hours. As it is, when Grant sweeps a hand down the length of Gerard's body and then reaches between his legs, Gerard surges up into the touch, moaning into Grant's mouth.
"I need you," he whispers, clutching Grant's shoulders.
Grant raises a hand to stroke Gerard's hair back from his face. "You have me."
He sits back on his heels for a moment, finds the little bottle lying where Gerard left it on the mattress, then reaches between Gerard's legs again with slick fingers. Gerard gasps when Grant's fingers circle his entrance, slow and gentle, and then tenses when Grant pushes one inside. Gerard bites his lip; it already feels like more than what he remembers, whether because it's been some time since he's been taken like this or because it's Grant. Grant looks up at him, raising his free hand to brush Gerard's cheek.
"All right?" he asks softly, and Gerard nods.
"Yes," he replies. "Just--go slowly?"
Grant nods, leaning down to kiss him. He starts moving his hand again, slow but not hesitant, probing with one finger for a few moments before gently adding another. Gerard draws in a deep breath and lets it out slowly, willing himself to relax, to ride the wave of sensation without being overwhelmed by it.
Grant scatters tiny kisses across his cheeks, his brow, his eyelids. He tilts his head to kiss the shell of Gerard's ear, whispering to him. "Have you been with someone this way before?" he asks, a note of concern in his voice. He doesn't stop touching Gerard as he asks the question, and Gerard's breath catches on a moan when Grant crooks his fingers inside him.
Gerard nods, and when he can speak again, says, "I think--I think it's been a long time. I haven't been with anyone else since Frank, and he--" He breaks off, feeling himself blush hotly. New as he is to the concept of having two lovers, he's fairly sure it's poor form to talk about one while in bed with the other.
Grant pulls back enough for Gerard to see his face, and Gerard doesn't see any sign of offense--if anything, Grant looks intrigued. "Frank prefers to be taken?" he murmurs.
The memory flash comes on before Gerard can stop it--sitting up in bed with Frank in his lap, wrapped around him, his fingers digging into Frank's skin, Frank's hands buried in Gerard's hair as he rides him. Gerard gasps for air. He can't speak, can't think, not with memories of Frank flooding him while Grant touches him. All he can do is nod.
Grant moves his fingers in quick, sure strokes, nuzzling at Gerard's ear. "The two of you together must be a lovely sight," he whispers, and that's it, Gerard is quite sure he can't take any more of this without expiring where he lies.
He's here for Grant, he reminds himself. He's Grant's tonight. And the fact that Grant seemingly has no objection to contemplating and even discussing Gerard making love to another is...well, it's unbearably arousing, but also confusing.
He slides his arms around Grant's neck, turning his head to kiss him and then whispering against his lips. "But when I've thought about being with you, this has always been what I imagined most often," he says.
Grant kisses him deeply, pushing a third finger into Gerard at the same time. Gerard moans into his mouth, pushing back against his hand. The sensation's gone from being almost too much to not enough, and he's achingly hard.
"Now," he whispers. "Now, I'm ready."
Grant strokes Gerard's hair back with his free hand and kisses him long and slow, swallowing Gerard's whimper when he pulls his fingers out. He sits back on his heels, finding the little bottle again and slicking up his cock with a few rough strokes, and pauses for a moment, looking down at Gerard.
"You're so beautiful," he murmurs. He touches Gerard's knee, stroking Gerard's skin with his thumb. "Do you want to turn over?"
Gerard shakes his head. It might be easier that way, after how long it's been, but-- "I want be able to see you, and kiss you."
Grant nods. "I want that, as well." He reaches for one of the pillows beside Gerard's head, squeezing his knee gently. "Lift up for me, then."
Gerard obeys, and Grant slides the pillow under his hips. Gerard settles into a comfortable position, head and shoulders nestled into the rest of the pillows, knees bent, and looks up at Grant.
"Now," he repeats firmly. "Please."
Grant moves in between his legs, hands settling on Gerard's thighs, and leans down to kiss him. "Now," he whispers.
Gerard lets out a sharp gasp as Grant pushes into him, hands going to Grant's shoulders and clutching tight. Grant goes slow and gentle, but he doesn't stop until he's buried deep. He's bent over Gerard, their foreheads touching, and he lifts one hand to cup Gerard's cheek, the other still gripping his thigh. Gerard clings to him, taking deep breaths and letting himself adjust to the stretch and the pressure.
"I love you," he whispers breathlessly. "Grant. I love you."
Grant kisses him fiercely, and it's all the answer Gerard needs. Gerard curls his hand around the back of Grant's neck to keep his mouth where it is, and runs his other hand down Grant's spine to the dip of his lower back, pressing down to encourage him.
Grant starts moving his hips in tiny rocking motions, each one sending a spark through Gerard. Gerard rolls his hips, matching Grant's pace and moaning as he starts thrusting harder. Grant tilts his head down to kiss Gerard's neck, teeth grazing skin and drawing another moan.
"You feel so good," he says into Gerard's skin, breath hot against his neck. "Better than I ever imagined. I--"
He breaks off with a moan as Gerard hooks his legs around Grant's waist, which pushes Grant a little deeper inside him. In response, he grasps Gerard's thighs and hitches him even closer, driving into him hard and fast. Gerard cries out from sheer intense pleasure, letting his head fall back on the pillows, and Grant maps out Gerard's collarbones with his mouth before pushing up to look at him. He lets go of Gerard's legs to brace himself over Gerard with one arm, and trails his other hand down Gerard's throat, his chest, his stomach.
Gerard's cock is pressed between their bodies, already leaking. Grant wraps his hand around it and swirls his thumb over the head, the moisture making the slide of his hand easier. Gerard bucks his hips, pushing up into Grant's hand and then back against his cock, over and over.
He thinks briefly that it's too soon, that he wants to make this last as long as he can, but he can't stop. Grant's thrusts and the grip of his hand drive Gerard on, and he moans Grant's name as his hips snap up and he comes hard, clenching around Grant's cock and spilling over his fingers. Grant never takes his eyes off Gerard, murmuring sweet things to him and stroking him through it, until Gerard shudders and goes still.
Grant's still thrusting into him. Gerard lifts a hand to his face and Grant turns his head to kiss his fingers, then grasps Gerard's hips in both hands and drives into him until he shudders and comes, sinking forward and muffling his cry in Gerard's neck.
Gerard wraps his arms around Grant's shoulders, holding him there as they both pant for breath. After a few moments it starts to be too much, the weight of Grant on top of him and the feeling of Grant still inside him, and when he makes a little noise and presses Grant's shoulder Grant lifts up and pulls out gently.
He collapses on his side, and Gerard rolls to face him. Grant twines a hand in Gerard's hair and kisses his mouth and forehead and eyelids, then murmurs, "Don't move," and gets out of bed. Gerard lets out a whine of protest, but Grant only goes as far as the wash basin in the corner, returning with a damp cloth to clean them both. He lets it fall to the floor when he's done, then settles back against the pillows and holds out his arms. Gerard nestles against his chest, putting one arm around Grant's waist.
"Worth the wait?" he asks softly.
Grant cups his cheek in one hand, stroking his skin gently. "A million times over," he replies.
It's less difficult than Gerard feared to settle into a workable arrangement. They're discreet around others--Gerard and Frank's relationship has been an open secret in the household for years, but none of them wants there to be any more gossip about this than they can avoid. Gerard finds opportunities to be with each of them alone, and they both follow his lead and let him decide when and where things happen.
It's not perfect. Gerard wonders sometimes if he's truly making Frank and Grant happy. He wants very badly to divide himself between them equally, to never make either of them feel less loved or wanted, and sometimes he still feels pulled in two different directions. Grant will also be returning to Scotland eventually, and then they'll have to work distance into the equation. It isn't perfect, but it's what they have. And when Gerard weighs the good and the bad of it, all the complications are nothing against their smiles and kisses and touches, the way he fits against each of them in ways that are different but both feel right, the way Frank touches him like he's relearning Gerard's body and the way Grant touches him as he learns it for the first time.
The days lengthen into midsummer. Toro stays in contact, but doesn't seem to have discovered much. Gerard continues the work of reclaiming his life. He's been easing back into society lately, going into town more often and reconnecting with friends. He's been an object of some curiosity in the vicinity since he came home; there was little room for secrecy when his family was searching everywhere for him, so the story of his disappearance became widely known. He bears it tolerably. Answering the same questions gets tiring, but compared to everything else he's dealt with over the past few months it's not so bad.
He's remembered that they used to have parties at the estate sometimes, but needless to say, there hasn't been one since his disappearance. When some of his and Mikey's friends in town hint that they'd like to see the practice revived, Mikey demurs, but Gerard thinks about it, and brings it up again after they've gone home that evening.
"I think I'd like it if we did something soon. You may still have to remind me of who some of our guests are, but it would be nice to have company again."
Mikey smiles. "I'd like it, too, if you think you're ready. It could be a sort of belated homecoming party."
The guests are going to start arriving soon and Gerard is still fussing with his hair. He makes a few more minute adjustments and takes a step back to look at the result, and then a knock at his door keeps him from doing anything else to it. He opens the door to see Grant standing in the hallway, dressed in a perfectly tailored suit with a brightly patterned waistcoat that he carries off far better than it seems anyone should be able to.
"I've been sent to remind you that as this party is in your honor, you should probably be in attendance when it starts," Grant tells him.
Frank meets them in the hall, looking gorgeous in his best suit, and they make their way down together. Downstairs, everything seems ready, with footmen ready at their posts and a string quartet tuning their instruments in the ballroom--and, Gerard knows, hired men at every door to be certain no one uninvited gets in.
As they reach the front hall, Frank trips over the corner of a rug disturbed during the preparations for the ball. Grant steps closer and grabs his elbow, steadying him.
"Thank you," Frank says as he regains his footing, and Grant smiles and holds onto his arm a moment longer than seems necessary.
The guests begin arriving, and Gerard loses track of Frank and Grant somewhat as the evening gets underway. As he circulates throughout the party, he's enjoying himself, but finds he hadn't really remembered how much effort it is to play host to a large gathering. He tries to make sure he greets everyone individually, and dances with a few of the ladies in attendance.
He's about to lead one partner out onto the floor when he catches sight of Frank and Grant standing together near the wall, engaged in a conversation that seems lively, based on their expressions and Frank's level of gesticulating. Something about the way they're looking at each other tugs at Gerard, but his partner says something and he turns back to her with a smile.
By the time the ball's over, Gerard's exhausted, though still glad they did this. He finally sees the last of the guests out, then retires to the library and finds Grant already there, sitting alone and gazing into the fire. He looks up and smiles when Gerard enters, and Gerard crosses the room to join him on the settee. He sits close and lets himself sag against Grant--no need to be formal anymore, he's had enough wine to feel lightheaded, and he's tired--and Grant shifts to accommodate him, sliding an arm around Gerard and encouraging him to lean back. Gerard does so, his back to Grant's chest and his head on Grant's shoulder.
Gerard can hear low voices in the corridor, but it's just Frank and Mikey, so he doesn't move. They come into the library, and Frank pauses when he sees Gerard and Grant together. Without really thinking--or at least, not really thinking of anything but that he doesn't want Frank to feel less wanted, not for a moment--Gerard holds out a hand and beckons to him gently.
Frank hesitates another moment, then gives a barely noticeable shrug and moves toward them. He doesn't join them on the settee, but lowers himself to the floor in front of it and leans against Gerard's legs, his head coming to rest on Gerard's thigh. Gerard puts his hand on Frank's head, stroking his hair gently. He's not entirely certain what they're doing here, but between his lightheadedness and the delightful feeling of sitting with them both like this, he's not inclined to question it.
Mikey regards the three of them for a moment with a look that's part fond, partly as if he's despairing of ever knowing what to do with them, and then takes a seat in a nearby armchair.
"The evening seems to have gone rather well," he says neutrally.
Gerard smiles. "Yes, I think so."
They talk for a little while about the party, remarking on some of the guests, sharing anecdotes. Grant offers a comment now and then, his voice a comforting rumble against Gerard's back. Frank just makes noises of assent here and there, gradually fewer until Gerard thinks perhaps he's fallen asleep.
Mikey stifles a yawn behind his hand, then rises from his chair. "Well, I'm for bed. And it looks as though Frank is, as well, though he may need to be carried there."
Gerard curls a hand around the back of Frank's neck gently. "We'll take care of him. Goodnight, Mikey."
For a moment Mikey looks as though he has something to say but isn't sure he should. Then he nods, and simply says "Goodnight," as he moves toward the door.
It's just the three of them now, and Gerard nestles his head against Grant's shoulder and looks down at Frank. "I suppose we can't just stay like this all night," he says wistfully.
"Alas, no," Grant says, squeezing Gerard gently with one arm. And then he reaches around with his free arm and strokes Frank's hair back from his face, resting his hand on Frank's head as Gerard had done a short while ago. "Although the two of you make such a lovely picture that I hate to see you move."
Frank doesn't move, doesn't open his eyes or say anything, but Gerard can feel his sudden intake of breath. He's not asleep, at least not all the way. Gerard feels short of breath himself, watching Grant's fingers slip through Frank's hair and remembering when Grant had said something like that before--The two of you together must be a lovely sight.
Gerard turns his head, cheek rubbing against the fabric of Grant's jacket. "Grant..." he whispers, almost soundlessly.
"Mm?" Grant hums against his ear, his hand still in Frank's hair.
Gerard can't say what he wants to say, can't even properly think it through. It's swelling up in his chest, far too big to fit into his throat, and his brain is too fuzzy to even begin to break it down into words right now.
"Will you help me get Frank to his room?" he asks at length, at a loss for anything else.
If that's not what Grant was hoping to hear, he doesn't let on, just kisses Gerard's hair and murmurs "Of course."
He eases out from behind Gerard, who sags against the cushions without his support, and stands, reaching down to take hold of Frank's arms. Frank lets out a bleary grumble, but stands, Gerard helping to steady him on the way up.
Grant gets one of Frank's arms slung around his shoulders, stooping to make up for the height difference and supporting Frank with an arm around his back. Gerard pushes himself off the settee with some effort, stumbling a little, and then goes ahead to get the door.
They make their way up the stairs and down the hall to Frank's room, and Gerard hovers in the doorway while Grant takes Frank inside. In the faint light that falls in through the open door, Gerard watches Grant strip Frank of his jacket before letting him collapse on the bed, then reach down to remove his shoes. Grant touches Frank with a gentle solicitude Gerard knows well--knows because he's been its object. Frank is either falling asleep too fast to offer any comment on the proceedings, or pretending to. Grant drapes a blanket over him and turns to the bedside table, confirming that there's a glass and a pitcher of water there if Frank should wake and want it. When he turns back to Frank he lays a hand on his shoulder and starts to bend, looking for all the world like he's about to kiss Frank goodnight. Then he catches himself, and looks up to see Gerard watching. It's hard to make out Grant's expression in the dim room, and Gerard can only imagine what his own is like.
He gives a quick glance up and down the hallway--no one in sight--and then holds out a hand to Grant, who comes to him and takes Gerard in his arms, pressing him back against the doorframe as they kiss. It's deep and heady, and Gerard closes his eyes and lets himself get lost in it for a moment. When it breaks, he tilts his head down, pressing his face against Grant's shoulder.
"Grant," he says again, trying to somehow convey what he still doesn't have words for yet.
"Gerard," Grant murmurs in his ear. "I couldn't forgive myself if I ever gave you cause to doubt the strength of my love for you, if I ever made it seem as though I merely wished to amuse myself--"
Gerard raises his hand and presses his fingers to Grant's lips, smiling faintly as he looks up. "If there's one person in the world you don't have to explain yourself to, it's me," he says gently.
Grant kisses his fingers, then glances back into the bedroom. "And Frank?"
"Frank..." Gerard looks over as well, tracing the line of Frank's body as well as he can in the dim light. "You told me once that finding myself in this predicament meant I had a generous heart, do you remember?" Grant makes a noise of assent, and Gerard goes on, choosing his words carefully. He's still tired, still fuzzy, but this is important. "Frank has a more generous heart than most people I've known. And I've seen him looking at you, I just...haven't been sure what to make of it. I don't know how he'll react at first, if we talk to him--and I think we must, before we even think about anything more--but perhaps--I hope--" He breaks off with a sigh, letting his head fall on Grant's chest. "I hope."
Gerard goes back to Frank's room the next morning, rapping gently on the door and smiling when Frank opens it.
"Good morning," he says. "May I come in?"
"Of course," Frank says, stepping back to let him inside.
Frank's room has a bay window with a bench seat in front of it; Gerard takes a seat there and holds a hand out to Frank, who joins him, sitting close. Frank's eyes search his face, and Gerard knows he can tell that Gerard came here for some serious purpose.
"What is it?" Frank asks him, brow furrowed.
"I have something to ask you," Gerard tells him. "And I want you to tell me honestly how you feel about it." Frank nods, and Gerard goes on. "Grant and I have talked a little about--about altering our arrangement, and I want to know how you'd feel about that."
Frank looks even more concerned. "Altering it how?" he asks.
Gerard hesitates for a moment, then says, "I believe the French term for it is menage a trois."
Frank blinks, looking as if he's been brought up short. "Oh," he says after a moment. "That's...not what I was expecting you to say at all."
"What were you expecting?" Gerard asks.
Frank runs a hand through his hair, letting out a slightly shaky breath. "Well, I was rather afraid you were going to tell me you no longer wanted to be with me at all."
"Frankie," Gerard says sympathetically, reaching for his hand. "Why would you ever think that?"
Frank looks at him with a rueful smile. "Because ever since you came home, a part of me has been constantly afraid you'd disappear again. And I suppose that fear got sort of...twisted into a fear that Grant would take you away from me eventually."
Gerard grips his hand tightly. "Even if he wanted to do such a thing, I wouldn't stand for it. But he doesn't. He knows how much I love you. And after last night, I know he has feelings for you as well." Frank's eyes widen, and Gerard smiles faintly. "Are you really so surprised to hear me say that?"
Frank looks at him for a long moment, then casts his eyes downward. "No," he says softly. "I wasn't sure, but...as you said, last night..."
Gerard raises Frank's hand to his lips, kissing the back of it. "And if you don't have any interest in him, that's fine, we can go on just the way we have. But if you do..."
Frank doesn't look up, but Gerard can see two spots of color burning high on his cheeks. He doesn't know if Frank's ever thought about the possibility of all three of them together, but Gerard's certain he is now.
"I--I need some time to think," Frank says at length.
"Of course." Gerard reaches to tilt Frank's chin up gently. He leans in for a kiss, then rests his forehead against Frank's. "You can have this if you want it, Frankie. It's all right if you don't, but it's also all right if you do."
He leaves Frank and goes to Grant, telling him of their conversation.
"I think he does want you," Gerard says. "But he's still coming to terms with it."
Grant nods. "Would it help if I spoke to him as well, do you think?" he asks. He seems as unsure as Gerard has ever seen him, a far cry from the confidence and self-possession he likes to show the world, and Gerard moves closer and slips an arm around his waist from behind, resting his chin on Grant's shoulder.
"I think we should wait and see if he comes to either of us," he says. "Give him some time."
Grant nods, and reaches back to comb his fingers through Gerard's hair. "Whatever happens, I'm glad we took the chance."
Gerard tilts his head to kiss the side of Grant's neck. "So am I."
'Some time' proves to be several days. Gerard spends a few nights with Frank in that space of time, but Frank doesn't say anything, and Gerard's not going to broach the subject if he doesn't.
Grant and Gerard are walking in the gardens one afternoon when Frank comes to find them, determination written on his face and in the set of his shoulders.
"I need to speak with you privately," he says to Grant, then instantly adds, to Gerard, "Not privately from you."
Gerard nods, glancing around at the open space they're in, and heads for a sheltered alcove he knows is close by, beckoning them to follow. Once there, Frank turns to face Grant, and Gerard stays at a short distance, watching them.
"I need to know what it is you want from me," Frank says, looking up to meet Grant's eyes. "If it's only physical desire or--or if there's something more."
Grant lifts one hand to Frank's face, brushing Frank's cheek gently with the backs of his fingers. "I want a great many things from you, and a number of them are quite physical," he says, looking at Frank solemnly. "I want to touch you, and kiss you, and hold you in my arms. I also want you to smile at me the way you smile at Gerard, and laugh at my jokes and stories, and argue with me when you think I'm wrong."
Gerard looks back and forth between the two of them; Frank is looking intently at Grant, the way Gerard knows he looks at Grant sometimes, and Grant smiles at him cautiously. "I want whatever you're willing to give me, Frank, however much or little that is. Does that satisfy you?"
Frank looks down and away, cheeks flushed slightly. "Not quite. I'm still not sure why you want me when you already have Gerard."
Grant takes a step closer, his hand coming to rest on the side of Frank's neck now, fingertips creeping around and up into his hair. "You have him, as well. Do you want me?"
Frank doesn't look up at him, but he brings one hand up to Grant's chest, fingers curling in the fabric of his waistcoat. He answers in a whisper, "Yes."
"Then there's your answer," Grant says. His voice is low, but he looks up to meet Gerard's eyes over Frank's shoulder, and his words are for both of them. "I want him because he's Gerard, and I want you because you're Frank. You're the two most beautiful creatures I've ever known, and I'm quite certain I don't deserve to have both of you, but I want you all the same."
Frank makes a low noise in the back of his throat and stretches up to bring their mouths together. He keeps hold of Grant's waistcoat with one hand and brings the other up to his cheek, kissing him fiercely. Grant cups the back of Frank's head and brings his other hand to Frank's face, touching him gently, almost hesitantly.
Gerard watches them, his eyes wide and his heart hammering in his chest. They look even more beautiful together than he thought they would. When the kiss breaks, Grant holds out a hand to him, and he takes it and steps in close, resting his other hand on Frank's back and leaning in to press light, swift kisses to both their mouths.
Frank slings an arm around Gerard's back, still hanging onto Grant with his other hand. "Can we--can we continue this inside?" he asks in a low voice.
Grant kisses his temple, smoothing his hand through Frank's hair. "We can do whatever you like, my dear."
They make their way back to the house, trying not to be obvious about their intended destination. When Grant walks past the the parlor door, Mikey flags him down.
"A letter came for you," he says, and Grant pauses to receive it from him, Gerard and Frank going on ahead.
Gerard catches Frank's hand in his as they head up the steps, and tugs him down the hall to his room. Inside, he pulls Frank close to kiss him, then draws back to look into his eyes. "You are sure about this?" he asks. "If you aren't--"
Frank steps in close and stops him with another kiss. "I'm sure," he says softly.
A few moments later, there's a knock on the door, and Gerard opens it a crack and then smiles when he sees Grant. His smiles slips as Grant steps into the room with the letter he received in hand and a solemn look on his face.
"What is it?" Frank asks.
Grant lets out a sigh, folding the letter and tucking it away in a pocket. "I have to go home," he tells them.
Gerard can't help the way his face falls. "Soon?"
Grant reaches out to touch Gerard's cheek, stroking gently with his thumb. "Yes," he says apologetically. "A dispute's arisen between two tenants on the property, and they've asked me to help settle it. It's nothing dreadful, but it needs to be seen to, and not from afar."
Gerard presses into the touch, sighing. "I understand."
Grant turns to Frank, holding out his other hand with a rueful smile. "I'd hoped to have much more time with you."
Frank takes his hand. "But we have tonight, don't we? Unless you need to leave that soon."
Grant looks back and forth between them. "No," he says softly. "Tomorrow is soon enough."
Frank steps back toward the bed, tugging on Grant's hand. "Then let's make the most of tonight."
Grant lets Frank lead him to the foot of the bed, bending to kiss him. Gerard follows, unable to take his eyes off them. Frank looks over at him, breaking the kiss, and then back at Grant.
"I've never--" he says hesitantly. "How do we do this?"
"Well, to begin with..." Grant beckons to Gerard and Gerard steps closer at once; Grant moves behind him and takes hold of his shoulders, positioning him in front of Frank. "I've wanted to watch you two together for quite some time."
Gerard pouts a little. "What if I want to be the one watching?"
Grant brushes Gerard's hair aside and kisses the back of his neck, making him shiver. "You'll just have to wait your turn," he whispers.
Frank is watching them hungrily, and Gerard puts his hands on Frank's waist and leans in. He's never kissed Frank with someone watching before. He feels an urge to perform a little and doesn't fight it, kissing Frank slow and open-mouthed. Frank responds eagerly, his hands settling on Gerard's shoulders. After a few moments, Gerard slides his hands up and starts on the buttons of Frank's waistcoat. He undoes each one slowly, at the same time leaning down to kiss the underside of Frank's jaw. Frank tilts his head to the side with an appreciative noise and Gerard keeps going, trailing kisses down the side of his neck.
He hears movement and glances over to see Grant settling on the edge of the bed. He's taken off his jacket and he's loosening his collar, eyes fixed on Gerard and Frank the whole time. Gerard meets Grant's eyes very deliberately as he bites down on a sensitive patch of skin and then sucks at it. Frank lets out a sharp little cry, one of his hands coming up to tangle in Gerard's hair.
Gerard gets Frank's waistcoat open and pushes it and his jacket off his shoulders. Frank drops his arms to let the garments fall, then brings his hands up to work on Gerard's buttons. He's hastier than Gerard was, and his fingers are trembling a little; when he fumbles over the same button twice, Gerard covers Frank's hands with his own and squeezes gently. Frank stills for a moment, taking a deep breath, then resumes his task, slower and steadier this time.
When Gerard's jacket and waistcoat are off, he takes Frank's hand and leads him over to sit on the bed, then sinks smoothly to his knees to deal with Frank's footwear. One of Frank's hands slides through his hair, and Gerard stretches up to kiss him, hands braced on either side of Frank's legs. Frank cups his face in both hands. When the kiss breaks, Gerard looks over at Grant again. Lounging against the headboard with his collar open, he looks perfectly at ease, as though he engages in trysts like this all the time, but Gerard sees something beyond that in his eyes. It's important they do this right, for Frank's sake especially, and Gerard can tell Grant's every bit as aware of that as he is.
"You should help Frank with the rest of his clothing," Gerard suggests, and Grant raises his eyebrows slightly, looking to Frank.
"Yes," Frank says eagerly. "I want your hands on me."
Grant shifts on the bed so that he's right behind Frank, arms going around his waist. "Then you shall have them," he says, pressing a kiss to his temple as he starts working on the buttons of Frank's shirt.
Frank turns his head, craning his neck back, and Grant kisses his mouth. He lets Frank set the pace, take control of the kiss, at the same time slipping one hand into Frank's open shirt, stroking his skin.
Gerard stands, unbuttoning his own shirt, then undoes his trousers. Grant breaks the kiss to whisper something to Frank, who looks over at Gerard as he strips to the skin.
"He's so beautiful," Frank murmurs as they both watch him.
Grant kisses the corner of his mouth. "You both are," he replies. His hand is still moving inside Frank's shirt; with his other, he reaches for the fastenings of his trousers.
Gerard smiles leans over to kiss Grant, bracing his hands on the bed. "You, too," he whispers.
Straightening up, he curls his hands in the waistband of Frank's trousers and tugs. Frank lifts up with Grant's help, and Gerard slides the trousers down his legs and off. Grant pulls his shirt off, bending to kiss Frank's shoulder as he does. Frank reaches back with one hand, cupping the back of Grant's head.
"What now?" Frank asks.
Gerard leans in for a swift kiss. "I think Grant would like to watch me take you."
Frank's expression says he's not at all opposed to that idea; he turns to look at Grant, who touches his cheek. "I've wanted that for a long time," he says. "If you find it an agreeable suggestion."
Frank leans in and kisses him hard. "How do you want us?" he asks when he pulls back.
"Lie back against the pillows," Grant says, moving aside to give him room.
Frank kisses him once more, and trails his hand down the front of Grant's waistcoat. "You should take off your clothes, too," he says. "I want to see you."
Grant nods, moving back to lean against the headboard again and unbuttoning his waistcoat. Frank settles against the pillows next to him, holding out a hand to Gerard.
Gerard climbs onto the bed, settling between Frank's knees, and bends to kiss him. Frank trails his hands over Gerard's arms and shoulders, then down to press against the small of his back, urging him closer. They both gasp as their cocks brush together. Gerard runs his hands through Frank's hair, his tongue probing into Frank's mouth. He feels Grant's hand on his face, tucking his hair back behind his ear, and turns his head.
Grant's naked by now, and Frank looks over admiringly and reaches out to touch, fingers trailing over Grant's bicep and then up and over to his collarbone. Grant leans over and reaches for him, and Gerard sits back on his heels to give them room. For a few moments he simply watches them kiss--Grant cupping Frank's cheek gently, Frank's hand curled around the back of Grant's neck--and then he leans over to reach into his nightstand, retrieving the little bottle of oil there.
Frank gasps and starts slightly when Gerard reaches between his legs with slick fingers, and Grant strokes his face and whispers to him soothingly between kisses. Gerard presses one finger into Frank, then two, probing slowly and gently. He knows what Frank can take, but given how keyed-up he seems right now, Gerard doesn't want to go too fast. He adds a third finger and crooks them inside Frank, curling his other hand around Frank's cock and giving it a few gentle strokes. He watches Frank's face, the way his brow furrows as if in concentration and his eyelashes flutter against his cheeks.
Gerard keeps going until he's sure Frank is ready, then pulls his fingers out and wipes them on a corner of the sheet. He moves further up on the mattress, putting his hands on Frank's thighs to push them apart. Grant shifts to lean back against the headboard again, staying close to Frank and stroking his hair back from his forehead. Frank is flushed and breathing heavily; Gerard leans down to kiss him and Frank slides his arm around Gerard's shoulders and holds on tight. Gerard braces himself with one hand on Frank's shoulder and positions himself with the other, pushing in with one smooth motion.
Frank lets out a moan, burying it in the curve of Gerard's shoulder, and Gerard kisses his hair and holds still for a moment, until Frank's hand settles on his hip and presses gently. Gerard starts moving in short, shallow thrusts at first, then deeper and longer as the slide of his cock inside Frank gets easier. Grant reaches a hand between them, stroking over Gerard's chest and down to his stomach, and Gerard arches into the touch with a moan.
"How does he feel, Gerard?" Grant asks in a low voice. "Tell me."
"So good," Gerard gasps out. "He feels perfect. We fit together so well, I never thought I'd feel that with anyone else, until you."
Grant lets out a soft noise and leans over to kiss him, then Frank, who reaches up to touch his face.
"I want it to be you next time," Frank whispers, and Grant nods.
"Yes," he replies. "Whatever you want."
"Right now I want your hand," Frank tells him, and Grant reaches down, stroking up and down Frank's torso as he had with Gerard before closing his hand around Frank's cock. Gerard pushes into him at the same moment, and Frank arches his back, crying out softly. Gerard grips Frank's thighs and thrusts into him harder and faster, Grant moves his hand on Frank's cock and rubs his thumb over the head, and Frank throws his arm over his face, muffling his cries in the crook of his elbow. He shudders violently and comes in a rush, and the feeling of Frank clenching around him sends Gerard over the edge a moment later. He collapses on top of Frank, trembling, and Grant strokes a hand up and down the length of his spine.
After a moment, Gerard stirs, pulling out and kissing Frank softly when he gasps. Gerard rolls to the side and holds a hand out to Grant, who moves into the space he vacated, straddling Frank's legs. Frank stretches up to kiss him and wraps a hand around Grant's cock and Grant pushes into the touch, whispering his name. Gerard reaches over and tangles his fingers with Frank's, and with both their hands moving together on his cock, Grant moans and comes within minutes.
They clean up and Grant settles down on Frank's other side, sliding both arms around Frank and kissing him gently. Gerard curls around Frank's back and kisses his shoulder.
"That was...wonderful," Frank says after a few moments, nestling against Grant's shoulder. Grant kisses the top of his head, stroking his hair with one hand.
"You're wonderful," he replies softly. He reaches over to touch Gerard's cheek with his other hand, and Gerard smiles at him over Frank's head and nuzzles against his palm.
They lie quietly for a while, all tangled up together, and Gerard falls asleep nestled against Frank with one arm stretched across to rest on Grant's side. When he wakes up, Frank is fast asleep, but Grant is awake, propped up on one elbow to look down at the two of them. He smiles when he realizes Gerard is awake.
"I'm going to miss you both very badly," Grant says, reaching over to tuck Gerard's hair behind his ear.
Gerard leans into the touch. "I wish you didn't have to go," he whispers. "Or that we'd gotten here sooner."
"I know," Grant replies softly. "You'd be welcome to come back with me, of course, but I wouldn't ask you to leave your home and family so soon after returning to them on my account."
Gerard smiles at him. "If you did, I'd be tempted to say yes, but I don't think I should. But...what if Frank and I came with you just on the first stage of the journey, to see you off? It would give us a bit more time together, at least."
Grant reaches across Frank to stroke Gerard's hair back from his face, smiling at him. "I'd like that very much. Shall we see what Frank thinks, when he wakes?"
"Frank's in favor," Frank mutters into his pillow.
Grant smiles, leaning down to kiss the top of Frank's head. "Very well, then."
They set out the next morning, and have an easy day of traveling before stopping in a little village shortly after sunset. They take a room at the inn and have supper and a bottle of wine brought up there, lingering over their plates and cups for a while before they fall into bed, clothing strewn across the floor carelessly.
Frank is more sure of himself this time, cupping Grant's face in his hands and kissing him boldly. Grant wraps his arms around his waist and pulls Frank's body tight against his, and Gerard hovers close by and presses kisses to Frank's shoulder, Grant's neck, anywhere he can reach.
Frank pulls back, looking at Grant eagerly. "Remember what we said last night?"
Grant reaches up to run a hand through his hair and kisses him briefly. "Whatever you want, beautiful boy. That offer still stands."
Gerard gets up to fetch the bottle of oil he tucked into his luggage and hands it to Grant with a kiss, then curls up against the pillows nearby. "My turn to watch," he murmurs as he gets settled.
Frank swings one leg over Grant's, kneeling astride him, and Grant takes Frank's cock in one hand, stroking it gently. With his other hand, he reaches back between Frank's legs with slick fingers. Frank's breath catches on a moan and he braces his hands on Grant's shoulders, thighs shaking a little as he straddles Grant's lap.
Grant prepares Frank slowly and thoroughly, until the slide of his fingers in and out of Frank is smooth and easy and Frank is pushing down against them on every stroke. When Frank moans his name, he pulls his fingers out and wipes them on the sheets, then takes hold of his own cock to steady it, putting the other on Frank's waist and kissing him gently. Frank wraps his arms around Grant's neck, closing his eyes and drawing in a breath, and then lowers himself slowly.
Grant lets out a low moan, his eyes fluttering closed, as Frank sinks down onto his cock. Frank sinks all the way down and then pauses, and Grant holds himself still, waiting for Frank to adjust. Frank leans in for a kiss, his hands coming up to trace the shape of Grant's skull, and Grant runs one hand up and down Frank's spine.
After a moment Frank starts moving, rolling his hips in tight circles. Grant follows his lead, thrusting up into him gently. They start slow and pick up speed fast, Grant's thrusts getting deeper and harder, Frank lifting up and sinking back down to meet each one. Watching them, Gerard resists the urge to rub himself against the sheets; he's painfully hard, but he wants to wait.
Frank brings one hand down into his lap as they move together, curling his fingers around his cock, and Grant wraps his hand over Frank's. It doesn't take more than a few quick, firm strokes before Frank arches his back and cries out, coming hard over their hands and stomachs. He leans down to kiss Grant again, and Grant puts both hands on his hips, gripping tightly as he thrusts up one more time and moans into Frank's mouth.
Frank sinks forward against Grant as they both catch their breath, turning his face into the curve of Grant's neck, and Grant wraps both arms around Frank and kisses his hair. Gerard sits up and leans over, kissing Frank's temple and then Grant's cheek.
"You're both so beautiful," he whispers.
Grant turns his head to catch Gerard's mouth with his, bringing one hand around to tangle in his hair. "You've been very patient, watching us," he murmurs. "What do you want?"
"Your mouth," Gerard replies. "And Frank's arms around me."
Frank moves off of Grant to lie down next to Gerard, kissing him deeply before he shifts to sit back against the pillows. Gerard settles in between Frank's legs as Frank's arms go around his waist, and Grant kisses them both before sliding down on the bed, his hands on Gerard's thighs to push them apart. Since they became lovers, Grant's made a dedicated study of what Gerard likes best, and now he knows exactly what to do, how to drive him wild. Gerard writhes in Frank's grasp and clutches at Grant's shoulders, twisting to bury his moans in Frank's neck as he shudders in release.
"You've both done this before, haven't you?" Frank asks as they lie in a tangle of limbs afterward. "Neither of you seems as new to it as I am."
Grant nods, trailing one hand up and down Frank's arm gently. "There was a time in my life when I was determined to try everything I'd never tried before, which led to quite a number of interesting experiences."
Frank grins. "It sounds as though there are some interesting stories there."
"Oh, there are," Gerard says suggestively, and Grant laughs and runs a hand through his hair.
"And what about you?"
"I've remembered having a few interesting experiences of my own," Gerard says, and looks over at Frank with a smirk. "When I was traveling on the Continent."
"I knew it," Frank says, then to Grant, "He would never tell me everything he got up to over there."
"'Everything' involves a very lovely American couple honeymooning in Paris," Gerard adds in the most innocent tone he can manage, and Frank makes a strangled noise as Grant laughs again.
"It seems we both have some stories to tell, then," Grant says.
"I don't have many," Frank says. "At least, not yet."
Grant leans over and kisses him softly. "Well, we'll have to work on that."
Gerard wakes early the next morning, tucked against Grant's back. Neither Grant or Frank are stirring and they don't need to be up for a while yet, so Gerard nestles closer, his lips brushing the back of Grant's neck. He closes his eyes again and lies there for a while, but he's still wakeful.
At length, Grant stirs and rolls onto his side, and Gerard opens his eyes to see Grant smiling at him.
"I'm going to miss this," Grant says, and Gerard leans in to kiss him.
"So are we," he says softly.
On Grant's other side, tucked into the curve of his arm, Frank turns his face into a pillow and mutters something that conveys the sentiment, if not all the syllables, of "too damn early".
Gerard laughs and leans over Grant to kiss the top of Frank's head. "Some of us have been awake for a while, lazy." He sits up, stretching. "In fact, I think I might get dressed and go for a walk."
"Would you like company?" Grant asks.
"I think I'll be fine on my own," Gerard says, smiling. He slips out of bed and reaches for his clothes. "Stay and see if you can get him up. I'll go make sure everything's squared away with the coach, and perhaps find us some breakfast."
Since they came this far in Grant's carriage, the plan is for Gerard and Frank to take a hired coach home. The livery stable's only a short walk from the inn, and Gerard lessens the distance even more by cutting through an alley.
Emerging from the mouth of the alley, he bumps into two men walking past it and starts to apologize--and then freezes.
His eyes lock onto the man closest to him first, because there's something familiar about that face and he's suddenly sure this is someone he knows and hasn't remembered yet. Then he looks at the other man, taller and broader, and his stomach drops into his shoes as the memory hits him like cold water dashed across his face.
There'd been a hood thrown over his eyes when he was taken, but he'd managed to struggle out of it in the back of the wagon. They'd stopped unexpectedly--a broken wheel--and he'd thrown himself at the man who peered into the wagon to check on him, catching him off guard and giving Gerard a chance to run, but not before he'd caught sight of the man's face. The face he's looking at now.
He glances back at the first man--it's Pedicone, he realizes, the former valet Toro had been looking for--and quickly assesses the situation. Neither of them have moved or spoken yet, seeming as shocked by the encounter as he is. He can try to shove past them onto the street, or turn and run back down the alley.
He chooses the latter, and makes it almost halfway before he's grabbed from behind. He struggles and shouts, but then there's a hand over his mouth, and quickly following, a sound blow to the back of his head.
Gerard wakes up sore and groggy, his hands tied behind his back and a gag in his mouth. He's in a room with hard-packed dirt for the walls and floor and wooden beams above, likely a cellar. The bigger man from the alley is there, reaching to remove the gag and telling him that he's too far from the village for shouting to do any good. Gerard shouts anyway, and tries to bite the man's hands when he moves to replace the gag, until the man curses and hits him in the side of the head hard enough for his vision to swim.
He's left alone for a while after that. Above him, he can hear footsteps and voices. As he remembers from the forest, there are three voices, one with a Scottish accent, and that man sounds like the one in charge. He can't make out what's being said, but it sounds like an argument.
Gerard slumps back against the wall behind him, trying to keep calm. He doesn't know how much time has passed, but Frank and Grant must know something's wrong by now. Did anyone in the village see him taken? Where is he, exactly?
He straightens up as the trapdoor above the cellar stairs opens and someone starts to come down. It's Pedicone, carrying a tin cup.
"I can give you some water if you cooperate," he says, and Gerard tries to derive as much satisfaction as he can from glaring at him before he nods. Pedicone removes the gag and holds the cup to his mouth for a few sips, and Gerard resists the urge to spit in his face.
Pedicone sits back on his heels, looking at him regretfully. "It would have been better for both of us if we'd never seen each other again," he says.
"I'm sorry, did I ruin your plans to kidnap me without any repercussions?" Gerard asks.
Pedicone sighs. "You're the one in danger here, Gerard."
A chill goes down Gerard's spine as he realizes what he means. He wasn't supposed to have seen the other man's face the first time or realize Pedicone was involved. He can identify them now. "What are you going to do?"
"That hasn't been decided yet." Pedicone stands, pacing the floor. "I know this likely doesn't mean much now, but I never wanted you to be harmed. You weren't supposed to be harmed, we were supposed to just get the ransom and let you go."
Watching him, Gerard realizes that he's frightened, too. "Perhaps we can still help each other," he says. "If you let me go--"
Pedicone shakes his head. "It's too late for that now. You don't know the people I'm involved with."
"Please," Gerard says, his voice shaking a little. "Pedicone--Michael. We were friends once, weren't we?"
Pedicone looks back at him, nodding. "We were. Before I was dismissed."
"For being a thief," Gerard retorts, anger flaring in spite of his fear.
"I had no choice!" Pedicone argues. "I needed the money."
"Could you not have asked for help?" Gerard asks him.
"I did! I went to your father and begged him for help with my debts. He turned me down, told me I had to take responsibility for my choices." He looks away and sighs, his shoulders sagging. "I know what I've done is wrong. I got in too deep with a bad crowd, and when I couldn't pay them back they told me I'd have to help them get the money some other way. I'm sorry."
"If you help me now, I won't forget it," Gerard tells him. "I promise, I'll do what I can for you."
Pedicone looks at him for a moment, then shakes his head and reaches for the gag. "I can't."
"Please--" Gerard gets out before the gag is back in place, and then slumps against the wall again, defeated.
"I truly am sorry," Pedicone tells him before he leaves the cellar.
Gerard's alone for a long while after that. Bracing himself against the wall, he gains his feet and explores the cellar. It's small, dimly-lit, and seems empty of anything he might use to free or defend himself.
He twists his hands behind him and tugs at the ropes binding them, but the ropes hold. Lacking any better options, he keeps tugging at them until his wrists are raw and stinging.
He looks up with a start at a sudden noise from above--a door slamming, it sounds like. Then footsteps and angry, rapid voices. The trapdoor swings open, and Gerard backs away from it, looking up.
It's the big man who comes down, the one who hit him earlier, and there's a knife in his hand and a determined look on his face. Gerard braces himself as the man walks toward him, drawing in a deep breath. He has only one advantage that he can think of--he's fairly certain the man is here to kill him, so it's not as though he has anything to lose by doing something reckless.
He cowers back against the wall as the man draws closer, letting all the terror he feels show on his face, and then lowers his shoulders, pushes off the wall, and rams into his would-be assassin as hard as he can.
The man's caught off-guard as Gerard hoped; he doesn't go down, but he staggers back, and Gerard rushes past him and runs for the stairs. He makes it up a few before a hand closes around his ankle and yanks, and without his hands to catch himself Gerard falls against the stairs, his cheek slamming painfully into one of them. He kicks out with both feet, connecting with something solid, and rolls onto his side just as the man brings the knife down; the blade whistles through the air and buries itself in the wood where Gerard's torso was a moment ago. Without pausing to think too hard about that, Gerard rolls back, trapping both the knife and the man's hand beneath him. The gag's come loose in the struggle, and without hesitating Gerard sinks his teeth into the man's arm.
The man roars and grabs him by the collar, hauling Gerard off and sending him crashing into the wall. His arm is bleeding and at least one of Gerard's kicks seems to have caught him in the face, but on the whole he looks far more angry than hurt.
"You little bastard," he snarls, picking up the knife again and stepping toward Gerard. "I'm going to enjoy this."
At that moment, there's another flurry of noise from above and someone shouts Gerard's name.
"Here!" he shouts back. "I'm down here!"
The man comes at him again, but then a gunshot rings out and he freezes. Gerard looks toward the trap door and sags against the wall in relief; there's a man in a police uniform leaning through the opening, training a pistol on Gerard's attacker.
"The next shot won't be a warning," the policeman says. "Drop the knife and come up the stairs slowly, with your hands where I can see them."
The man obeys, and the moment he's clear of the stairs Frank rushes down them, Grant following closely at his heels. They crash into him moments apart and Gerard just lets himself fall into their arms, closing his eyes and murmuring "I'm all right, I'm all right," over and over.
Frank breaks away for a moment to grab the discarded knife and cuts Gerard's bonds. As Gerard brings his hands around, Frank's fingers close gently around his wrists, and Grant takes Gerard's face in his hands, thumb gingerly brushing the bruise forming on his cheek. Gerard can see the same tumult of emotions in both their faces--concern, relief, and anger the likes of which he's never seen before from either of them.
"The constable would likely object if we went back upstairs and killed them all on the spot, wouldn't he?" Frank asks.
"I don't know, I think we could convince him to look the other way," Grant replies.
Gerard cracks a smile, then immediately regrets it as his face aches. "How did you find me?"
"Pedicone," Frank says. "We were trying to convince the police to help us look for you--the constable kept saying you'd probably just decided to take a longer walk without telling us and I swear I was inches from throttling him--"
"--and then Pedicone walked into the station, and Frank nearly throttled him instead," Grant finishes.
"And he's lucky we got here in time, or I'd go back and finish the job," Frank adds.
Gerard turns his hands over in Frank's grip, squeezing his fingers gently, and leans his head against Frank's. "I'm all right," he says again. "You found me."
Grant presses a kiss to his temple and lays a hand on his back. "Come on," he says softly. "Let's get out of here."
Upstairs, the kidnappers (minus Pedicone) are being held at bay and handcuffed by the constable and two deputies--the entirety of the little village's police force, Gerard later learns. He agrees to give an official statement at the police station later, along with Grant and Frank, but for now they're given leave to go back to the inn.
By the time they get there, Gerard's adrenaline has ebbed away and left him feeling exhausted and drained, physically and emotionally. He uses the last of his energy to collapse in the middle of the bed, and Frank and Grant climb in on either side. Gerard curls into Grant's chest and wraps his hands over Frank's arms as they go around his waist.
As tension leaves Gerard's body, he realizes it's not just the tension of the last few hours. He's spent months with the kidnapping still a blank in his mind, not knowing who'd taken him or if he was still in danger, and that's over now.
"I hope you realize I'm never letting you out of my sight again," Frank says into the curve of his neck.
Gerard grips him tighter. "I don't plan on ever leaving your arms again, so that shouldn't be difficult."
"I'm holding you both to that," Grant says. He has one arm wrapped securely against Gerard's back, and he kisses the top of his head. "In all my life, I've never been so afraid for anyone as I was today. I can't imagine what it must be like for you to have felt that twice, Frank."
"As long as I never have to feel it again, I'll live," Frank replies.
The three of them lie quietly for a while, just breathing together. Gerard nods off briefly, feeling safe enough in their arms to not fight his exhaustion. He wakes to Frank and Grant talking softly over his head.
"I don't want to leave you," Grant is saying.
"I'll take care of him," Frank replies. "And the sooner you tend to what you need to at home, the sooner you can come back to us."
"He's right," Gerard murmurs, opening his eyes. "I wish you didn't have to go, but we'll be fine."
Grant pulls back enough to look at him, smiling ruefully. "I confess, I'm finding it harder to think of it as 'home' without you there."
Gerard's heart clenches, and he leans up to kiss Grant. "Then do as Frank says, and come back to us as soon as you can."
It's hunger that finally gets them back out of bed--Gerard's body reminds him he hasn't eaten anything all day, and it turns out Frank and Grant haven't, either.
Later, they go and make their statements to the police, and Gerard looks in on Pedicone. He's being held in a different cell than the other two, which seems fortunate for him, from the looks they're casting him as they mutter darkly to each other.
"I won't forget my promise," Gerard tells him.
"And I hope someday I can atone for what I did, somehow," Pedicone replies.
They return to the inn, retreating back to the sanctuary of their room. Tomorrow Grant will resume his journey back to Scotland and Frank and Gerard will go home, but for now they take advantage of one more night to spend together.
The trial is mercifully brief. Pedicone cooperates fully with the authorities, and the men he fell in with, who have a long history of criminal activity, need little urging to turn on each other and bring it all out in court. The Scottish man, the leader of their little gang, had orchestrated the first kidnapping. They'd been taking Gerard to Scotland on their leader's suggestion because he had an old safehouse there, far from where anyone would think to look for Gerard. After the ransom attempt fell through, they'd strong-armed Pedicone into participating in a number of robberies to cover his debts, staying on the move to avoid getting caught, which led to the fateful chance encounter in the village. Gerard testifies both to the first abduction, which he's remembered fully, and to the second and the attempt on his life. Pedicone's cooperation and his help in saving Gerard earn him a lessened sentence, but the other two will be in prison for a very long time.
When it's all said and done, there's still a great deal of public interest swirling around the case, and the Ways are eager to shield Gerard from unwanted attention. Grant's invitation for Gerard to come back to Scotland for a while--with Frank along as a traveling companion--is, therefore, gratefully and gladly received.
Grant greets them eagerly when they arrive; they haven't been apart so very long, and they've written, but Frank imagines he's been quite lonely without them.
"We have something we've been wanting to discuss with you," Gerard says over dinner. He looks over at Frank with a smile, and Frank grins back, knowing what he's about to say. "We wanted to wait until we could do it in person."
Grant looks between the two of them, smiling fondly. "What is it?"
"I came into some money of my own from my grandparents a few years ago, and so far I haven't really used it for anything," Gerard says. "I've been thinking lately that if I could find property somewhere near here--just something small, a cottage or a house in town somewhere--that might be a good use of it."
Grant looks at him warmly for a moment, then ducks his head, his smile widening into a grin.
"You've beaten me to the punch," he says, and looks back up at Gerard, at the same time reaching across the table to touch Frank's hand. "I was going to broach the subject of finding some property for lease near you, and staying there part of the year."
Gerard grins, and Frank laughs, squeezing Grant's hand. "One or the other, then," he says. "Or both?"
Grant looks over at him and raises Frank's hand to his mouth, kissing his knuckles. "I'm sure we can work out some suitable arrangement."
They retire to Grant's room straight after dinner, and Frank sheds his jacket and starts tugging at his collar as soon as the door closes behind them. Grant's arms wrap around him from behind, his hands starting on Frank's buttons, and they both get distracted when Frank leans back against Grant and tips his head up for a kiss. When it breaks, Frank looks around for Gerard and finds him leaning against the footboard of the bed, working on his own buttons at a more leisurely pace.
"You've got your thoughtful face on," Frank tells him. "What's going on in there?"
Gerard shrugs. "Just...thinking about everything that's happened." He straightens up and walks toward them, lifting one hand to Grant's cheek. "The past few months have contained some of the worst moments of my life, but if none of it had happened, I would probably never have met you."
Grant turns his head to kiss Gerard's palm, curling one hand around his wrist. "I think about that every day," he says softly. "I wish you'd never had to endure what you did, but it brought you to me, and you changed my life."
Gerard smiles at him, then looks at Frank. "And you," he says, raising his other hand to tuck Frank's hair behind his ear. "I'm so sorry for how hard my amnesia was on you, but I got to fall in love with you all over again."
Frank steps forward to kiss him, then reaches back to touch Grant's arm. "And us," he adds. "This all could have ended in heartache for one of us so easily, and instead..."
Grant steps closer, wrapping his arms around both of them. "Instead we have this." He leans down to kiss them both gently. "And I love you both dearly."
Frank's breath catches and he tilts his head down and presses his face to Grant's chest. "I love you, too," he says, and slips one arm around Gerard's waist, squeezing gently. "And you. Always."
Gerard squeezes back. "I love you both so much," he replies.
They stand there in a circle, holding each other tight, and for all that's happened along the way, Frank can't help but be immensely grateful at where they ended up.